In 2017 the Bishop palace of Assisi, part of the Santa Maria Maggiore complex, was transformed into a Sanctuary changing its role within the city. The ecclesiastic building, now Santuario della Spoliazione, became a cultural pole, as well as of Faith. The project proposal for a new exhibition space and for a diocesan archive extension was the occasion for rethinking the whole complex and for establishing a Sanctuary reception space.
The project’s main feature is the excavation of a hypogeum hall below the existing seventeenth century courtyard in order to create a foyer and the ecclesiastic archive. The excavation works would reach the original thirteenth century palace level framed in an interstitial space among ancient foundation walls. This underground square is a central distribution hub which enhances functional interrelations among various users: from here you can access the Santuario della Spoliazione exhibition spaces, the Domus of the Latin poet Propertius, and the offices of the diocese. The square above lies on a concrete Franciscan gothic-shaped porch, a self-supporting structure which is detached from the substructure walls along the perimeter. This structural configuration avoids invasive interventions and creates a single space that facilitates the archaeological reading of the original complex laying underneath the seventeenth century courtyard visible today.
The Sanctuary extension can be a device through which revealing the existence of another morphology of the city and another bishop’s palace, that of the times of Saint Francis. The Franciscan Gothic arches frame the foundation walls of the ancient Bishop palace and its book heritage. Simple geometries made of concrete unfold eight centuries of history of Faith.
Competition organized by Diocesi di Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino.
Image by Giovanni Andrea Coni.