St Benedict's Chapel
LOCATION: Benedict XVI Retreat Centre, Grose Vale, NSW
CLIENT: Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney and Catholic Education Office Sydney
The Chapel of St Benedict sits prominently on its site and is the centrepiece of the new Benedict XVI Retreat Centre. Designed to seat up to 150 people, the chapel takes the well known form of a colonnaded early Christian basilica using Romanesque and Renaissance language attuned to local building and climatic conditions. It represents the first serious endeavour to build a new church in the classical idiom in Australia in over 60 years.
The proportions of the chapel elevate an otherwise humble brick and whitewashed concrete block structure. Restrained embellishments in the form of cast stone columns, cast in-situ concrete entablature and laser cut steel hinges and screens lend a decorum appropriate to the sacred space and a budget conscious client.
Entry to the chapel is in the West through a large set of red timber doors set deep within an arched cast stone portal. Passage through this portal terminates at the steps of the marble altar and tabernacle in the sanctuary at the eastern end of the chapel. The sanctuary itself is set apart from the terracotta tiled nave by its raised floor covered predominantly in travertine and by a large arch resting on baseless monolithic cast stone columns with Corinthian capitals. These columns continue down the main nave. The arch also supports a large hanging corpus and cross in the Romanesque style. This dramatic suspended crucifix further articulates the separation of the nave and sanctuary and helps to draw the eye down to the focal point of the whole space; the botticino marble altar with its golden tabernacle behind.
Windows are almost exclusively located in the upper level of the nave. These provide sky views and an abundance of heavenly light to enrich the souls of those below. The largely windowless side naves provide a sheltered space from the summer heat and allow for contemplation of stations of the cross by Leonard Porter, further reminding one to detach from the concerns of the everyday so as to better focus on heavenly realities articulated in this House of God.
Project by Sidney Rofe and Michael Suttie.