The architect Antonio Barluzzi (1884-1960), Italian by birth, had holy architecture in his blood. His maternal grandfather was the architect responsible for the maintenance of St. Peter’s Basilica. For many years he considered entering a seminary. On the advice of his spiritual mentor and encouragement of his older brother Giulio, already an architect, he entered the engineering school to study to become an architect. Barluzzi designed an Italian hospital in Ottoman Jerusalem. In 1918 as a sergeant in the Italian army took part in the allied entry into Jerusalem.
Barluzzi was asked by the Franciscans to design and build churches atop the ruins of Byzantine and Crusader churches that had been destroyed or fallen into disrepair during the Ottoman period. thanks to the genius of the architect Barluzzi that most of the Franciscan sanctuaries were rebuilt. His first designs were on Mount Tabor and in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Barluzzi dedicated his life to the Holy Land, designing nine new Sanctuaries on behalf of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. In all he built or restored 24 churches, hospitals and schools between 1912 and 1955.
The Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane
Barluzzi evoked the night-time of the Agony by leaving the interior in semi-darkness, relieved only by subdued natural light filtered through violet-blue alabaster windows,with twelve small domes, like the apostles. The glory is the triumphal facade of classic Roman inspiration, a triple round arch, supported by four large pilasters surrounded by columns topped with Corinthian capitals.
The Church of the Transfiguration, Mount Tabor
Inspired by the Church of St. Simeon the Stylite near Aleppo, in northern Syria. The Catholic Church of the Transfiguration stands among ruins of a Benedictine monastery. Buiding this church was a challenging task in 1919 because there was not even a road or water, which had to be carried by mules; even the stone masons were brought from Italy.
A bas-relief of the architect is set into a wall on the right of the entrance.
The Church of the Hospice of the Good Shepherd, Jericho
This small church was built by the Custody to meet the needs of the local Christian community. The general appearance is pleasant but does not have that guiding thread of inspiration which can be found in his other works. Rather, it is like a small and hospitable, slightly rustic, country church.
The Church of Visitation, En Karem
The Custos, Father Alberto Gori, promoted the construction of the sanctuary of the Visitation on the spot where the Virgin Mary is traditionally believed to have met Elizabeth. In 1938 Barluzzi moved to Ain Karem where he lived during the works. Barluzzi completed two designs for the crypt and one for the church.
Barluzzi appears in a fresco on the wall of the church he designed at Ein Karem.
The Church of St Lazarus, Bethany
The present Catholic church, with mosaics depicting the events that occurred here, was built in 1954. Barluzzi contrasted the sadness of death with the joy of resurrection by designing a crypt-like, windowless church, into which light floods from the large oculus in its dome.
The Church of the Angels, Shepherds Fields, Bethlehem – Beit Sahur
The tent-shaped Chapel of the Angels adjoins the remains of a 4th-century church and a later agricultural monastery. Paintings in the chapel depict the angel’s announcement to the shepherds, the shepherds paying homage to Jesus and the shepherds celebrating the birth of the Messiah.
Dominus Flevit, Mount of Olives
Barluzzi symbolised Christ’s grief over the city by designing Dominus Flevit in the shape of a teardrop, with tear phials on the four corners of its dome.
The Church of the Beatitudes, Galilee
The Church of the Beatitudes is an elegant octagonal building with colonnaded cloisters. It was built in 1938 for a Franciscan order of nuns and partly financed by the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. From 1930, the architect retired to Lake Tiberias where he worked for the National Association for Aid to Italian Missionaries who appointed him to build the Church of the Beatitudes in 1935. In memory of the eight beatitudes of Christ, the church is octagonal.
A new house for the Carmelite Fathers of Haifa and restoration of their church on Mount Carmel
A LIST OF BUILDINGS DESIGNED, BUILT OR RESTORED BY ANTONIO BARLUZZI
1. The Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane.
2. The Church of the Transfiguration, Mount Tabor.
3. The Church of the Hospice of the Good Shepherd, Jericho.
4. The Church of the Flagellation, Jerusalem (restoration).
5. The Church of Visitation, En Karem.
6. The Cloister of Bethlehem (restoration)
7. The Church of St Lazarus, Bethany.
8. The Church of the Angels, Shepherds Fields, Bethlehem.
9. Dominus Flevit, Mount of Olives.
10. The Church at Bethphage (restoration)
11. A School for girls in Jericho.
12. A hospital in Amman, Jordan.
13. The Kerak Hospital, Jordan.
14. The Church of the Beatitudes, Galilee.
15. The Armenian Catholic Patriarchate, Beirut.
16. Churches and other related buildings in Amman and Madaba, Jordan.
17. The Parish Churches in Beth-Saur, Irbid and Zerka.
18. A new house for the Carmelite Fathers of Haifa.
19. The Church at Mount Carmel.
20. The Convent of St Antony, Jerusalem.
21. The Ethiopian Monastery (restoration).
22. The Italian Legation premises at Teheran (restoration).
23. Terra Santa School, Jerusalem.
24. The Greek Church of the Holy Face and St Veronica, Jerusalem (restoration)
Famous Unfinished Works
During the Second World War, Barluzzi returned to Italy where he lived in his country house, working on the drawings of his two pet projects: The Basilica of the Incarnation in Nazareth and rebuilding the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
The Basilica of the Incarnation in Nazareth
The Basilica of the Incarnation in Nazareth which he thought was the most important work of his life. Barluzzi designed a church in eclectic style, using contemporary construction technique, reinforced concrete covered mostly by local limestone. The church was a concentric building dominated by a large dome reminiscent of St. Peters in Rome and surrounded by four towers dedicated to the four evangelists. The towers symbolized the voices announcing to the four corners of the world the event of the Incarnation – critics said the building looked too much like a mosque. In the plan, the length of the church was 90 meters, and the height from the ground to the cross on top of the dome was 72 meters, a very large building. Inside, Barluzzi designed a rotunda over the holy grotto and four wings for the requirements of the liturgy.
His plans were approved by the minister general of the Franciscan order. All the necessary permits were obtained from the State of Israel, and in December 1954, the cornerstone of the church that corresponded to Barluzzi’s plan was laid in a well-attended ceremony. However, four years later, in 1958, the new Franciscan custos took the project from Barluzzi.
The new basilica was designed by the Italian architect Giovanni Muzio of Milan. Muzio actually erected two churches, one on top of the other.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
The ambitious project of rebuilding the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
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