Corpus Christi, a photo essay by Fabrice Fouillet, captures masterpieces of modern religious architecture like Gottfried Böhn’s St Ludwig in Saarelouis, Germany, completed in 1970.

Fritz Hoger’s Kirche am Hohenzollernplatz in Berlin is the only prewar church included in the collection--the International Style-influenced chapel opened in 1933.

The keel-like apse of Maria Königin in Saarbrucken, Germany, completed 1959 by Rudolf Schwarz.

The Notre Dame de Royan, Royan, France, completed 1958, was built by the French architect Guillame Gillet, who spent five years in a German camp.

The nearly baroque detail of Auguste Perret’s St. Joseph in Le Havre.

The rainbow-colored windows and red diamond ceiling of Nicholas Kasiz’ St.Remy, which opened in 1957.

The rainbow-colored windows and red diamond ceiling of Nicholas Kasiz’ St.Remy, which opened in 1957.

Mario Botta’s Santo Volto in Turin, Italy, which was completed in 2006.

André Remondet’s raw concrete St. Thérèse in Metz, France, completed in 1959.

Frères Sainsaulieu’s Notre Dame du Chene in Viroflay, France, took its cues from the hull of a ship. The church was completed in 1966.

The beautiful diamond texture of Pietro Belluschi’s Church of Mary of the Assumption, the only American church in the series (it was finished in San Francisco in 1971).

Co.Design

Brutal Baroque: An Ode To Midcentury Modern Churches

The clergy hated it, but the radical transformation of religious architecture in the postwar era produced a number of masterpieces.

In the years following World War II, as Christianity steadily declined and cities rebuilt themselves, religious architecture underwent a transformation. Young architects found an opportunity to express spirituality in a modern voice—or, as Le Corbusier said of Ronchamp, "to create a place of silence, of prayer, of peace, and of eternal joy." Of course, the clergy weren’t always happy with the radical forms that resulted. Many of these churches were reviled by congregations for years. Yet they’re some of the most remarkable and well-preserved pieces of Modernism from the 1960s and '70s.

French photographer Fabrice Fouillet traveled across Europe photographing some of the most important examples of postwar churches, creating a catalogue of the spaces called Corpus Christi. "I’ve chosen to capture this break with centuries of architectural tradition," he explains. "Scattered throughout Europe, they reveal a new conception of the sacred, a representation of the divine imbued with modernity."

Each of Fouillet’s photos is carefully calibrated, with the alter centered at the bottom of the frame and the apse fully articulated at the very top. It’s an interesting effect that lends itself to comparison: the incredible concrete expressivity of Gottfried Böhn’s St Ludwig in Saarlouis, Germany versus the rationality of Mario Botta’s Santo Volto in Turin. The rainbow-colored windows and red diamond ceiling of Nicholas Kasiz’ St. Remy, versus the raw, unfinished concrete arches of André Remondet’s St. Thérèse in Metz.

One image—and architect—articulates the stories behind this era of architecture. Guillaume Gillet, the architect of the remarkable Brutalist cathedral, Notre Dame de Royan, was imprisoned by the Germans only seven years before he started work on the church. While being held in a camp, he worked with other prisoners to create the famed French Chapel, a tiny room underneath the roof of their barracks decorated with exquisite religious murals. In 1953, he was hired to rebuild the cathedral in Royan and designed a building that spoke to the brutality of the experience. He was still devout, and maintained that the 80-foot bell tower was inspired by the great Gothic cathedral that once stood in the town. The war hadn’t diminished his faith—but it freed him to articulate it in entirely new ways.

Check out all of Fouillet’s images above, or head over to his website for more information.

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1 Comments

  • Brett Lutchman

    This article is wrong, confused and erroneous and so many levels I don't even know where to begin.  The author claims that the clergy did not accept change and that Christianity declined after WW2. 
    None of this is correct at all. When people reject change, it's simply because people in general reject change. When it comes to architecture, regardless of whether or not it's religious, people naturally are slow to accept changes in historical and cultural landmarks and constructions because they feel a piece of their identity and history is being lost. It has nothing to do with "The clergy hated it". It's simply people not being readily acceptable to change. I'm sure there were unbelievers who also were not accepting to this type of change.
    These architectural pieces are truly magnificent. Despite the claims of this article, the clergy was pretty much accepting of change. After all, it was the clergy who hired Gillet (who was also a believer) to bring about change- that seems pretty accepting and innovative to me rather then "hating" changes.

    Christianity increased severely in WW2 when the free world came under the banner of the constitutes & moralities of this freedom instituted by God to stop the spread of Nazism and the suffocation of religious and public freedoms under an oppressive force. In times of trouble, people naturally turn towards God or another channel of "faith" when times of oppression draw in. Even after the World Wars, Christianity (and Catholicism  was steadily increasing with new churches being built in America, Canada, Britain, France, Australia and in other parts of the free world. One can simply read "Christianity Through the Ages" by Scott Latourette and witness the historical spread of underground Christianity during these dark times. 

    My focus here is not to address or point our the how wrong the author is, but to expose the hidden insinuated messages that religious folks are backwards, declining and opposed to change and innovation. Every single country where the Christian faith is key reveals a flourishing, creative, innovative society where free thinking and  religious expression pushes the boundaries for consistent change. Just look at ancient Rome after it occupied the Jews and created Roman Catholicism. The Cathedrals and murals alone were breathtaking and have a huge impact on many of the European (and Western) architecture of today.
    My question is, how can the clergy hate change and creative innovation, when they were the ones in the first place who instituted the very creativity and glorious works of art and architecture?