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The Sky Chapel

The Sky Chapel

The Sky Chapel is a private commission for the construction of a family charnelhouse. For the second time I find myself confronted with the theme of death in the development of my architectural work. The love for those who leave is materialized through a construction, as a manifest of memory and an attempt to combat longing. The expectations of the commission are noble and demanding since they touch intimate and emotional fields. Once again, I have tried to draw a small poem, a kind of 'Haiku', as a summary of the concerns and feelings that I have been vented by the family. I hope having responded the challenge with dignity.


As it is a construction with symbolic characteristics of great appreciation for the family, the architecture of the chapel tries to translate some of these meanings.

From the outside, it emerges as a closed and compact volume of ‘lioz’ marble (the favourite stone of the deceased family member), a symbol of unity and family intimacy. On the main facade, the chapel’s door is made of steel bars which draw the cross of Christ due to its orientation. The verticality of the door mimics the verticality of the cypress trees present in the cemetery as symbols of eternity. Just above the floor, a horizontal window opens on the back facade and represents the family's connection to the 'land' - 'land' as their roots (the village of Sertã) and 'land' as mortal earthly life.

Inside, and flanked by the horizontal window, a permanent planter was designed with peace lilies (Spathiphyllum wallisii), symbolizing the peace and serene rest of the deceased. The roof is perhaps the most prominent and symbolic element of the entire construction. The idea came up from the family's devotion to the Holy Spirit. According to the Catholic doctrine, the Cloud and the Light are part of the semiotic of the Holy Spirit representations. In the Old Testament theophanies, the Cloud, sometimes dark, sometimes luminous, reveals the living and saving God, manifesting the transcendence of his Glory. It happens with Moses on the mountain of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting episode, and during the walk in the desert. With Solomon the same occurs by the dedication of the Temple. In Luke 1:35, the same symbolic representation appears again, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”. Mary’s Annunciation, portrayed throughout the History of Art, as a dove that emanates a cloud of light over Mary. The same representation also appears in the episode of the mountain of the transfiguration: “the Holy Spirit came in a cloud that involved them” (to Jesus, Moses, Elias, Peter, James and John), and “a voice came out of it, saying: This is my Son, my chosen one, heard him." Luke 9: 34-35 - that was the Cloud which “subtracts Jesus from the eyes of the disciples” on the Ascension Day.

The chapel opens to the sky - to the clouds and to the light - through a roof of transparent glass, so those who rest upon it can be eternally touched by the Holy Spirit. The transparent cover, in contrast to the horizontal window above the ground, represents the eternal heavenly life and the hope of resurrection.

Photography: Vítor Leal Barros, Alexander Bogorodskiy

Consultants: Davide Souto Eng.º, António Lemos Eng.º


The Sky Chapel


Sertã, PT


March 2021



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