The Living Chapel is a place of serene harmony that integrates Faith, Nature, Art, Music and Architecture to encourage people of all cultures and religions to care for our planet through planting new trees and creating Laudato Si' Gardens.
The project, an idea of the Australian-Canadian composer Julian Darius Revie, is inspired by Pope Francis' Encyclical Laudato Si', by Saint Francis of Assisi and by the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.
The Living Chapel began with a concept for a musical piece inspired by the writing of Pope Francis. “Right after it came out in 2015, I was reading his environmental encyclical, Laudato Si’. There is one phrase where he writes that we need to rediscover how to live in “serene harmony” with the natural world. That one phrase stuck in my head, because as a composer, “harmony” has a specific technical meaning for me. I realized that I might be able to reflect this vision by creating a musical piece as an expression of serene harmony between humanity and nature”, explained Mr. Revie. “As the Living Chapel concept developed over time to include an entire new movement to plant trees and gardens around the world, this has now become our core mission, with the music now being created to complement it. The Chapel actually functions as a living musical instrument: it incorporates dozens of steel pan drums crafted from discarded oil drums along with over 3000 plants.”
The Project and its Realization
The Living Chapel was designed and built by an international team led by architectural designer Dr. Gillean Denny with the support of more than 100 students from the Stuckeman School’s Department of Architec- ture at The Pennsylvania State University, led by James Kalsbeek, and the Welding & Metal Fabrication Department at Pennsylvania College of Technology, led by James Colton II.
“The Living Chapel is an architectural interpretation of St. Francis’s Porziuncola, the chapel he himself restored. In form, the dimensions are directly proportional to the Porziuncola, and the shape spins outwards and upwards, lifting to the heavens,” explained Dr. Denny. “The structure of the Living Chapel has been constructed entirely out of recyclable and repurposed materials that are being reclaimed by Nature. The sculptural Music Wall portion is entirely composed of what would normally be considered garbage but has been reclaimed and transformed into something of beauty.”
The installation is made of recycled aluminium and PVC. The solar-powered irrigation system drives a continuous cycle of water drops that feed the plants and play the metal steel pan drums. The Chapel is surrounded by discarded oil barrels, which function as planters housing a collection of ancient "forgotten" fruit trees native to Umbria and young forest trees from Central and Southern Europe.
The selection of plants and the coordination of the Living Chapel's installation were led by Landscape Architect Consuelo Fabriani, at the Botanical Garden of Rome. “By the time the components of the Living Chapel arrived in Rome in March, all the scheduled programs were no longer on the agenda. The designers and students who had contributed to the construction of the structure and were supposed to assemble it here in Rome were all stuck in the United States, while at the Botanical Garden we had two shipping contain- ers unloaded on the lawn. Thanks to the support of Fabio Attorre, director of the Botanical Garden, and Julian Revie, who supported me with enormous trust, I was able to do the only thing I wanted to do in those circumstances, give a sign of vitality and nevertheless build the Living Chapel. And so it was, it took us almost five weeks to complete the work and now the Living Chapel is not only a reality but also a symbol of life and hope," said Ms. Fabriani. "I am very pleased to host the Living Chapel at the Botanical Garden of Rome because it is a beautiful structure that helps to strengthen the intrinsic meaning of the Garden as a tool to convey the message about the importance of reconnecting to nature and its conservation" explained Fabio Attorre, director of the Botanical Garden of Rome.
The supervision of the assembly work and the project technical checks were carried out by Sequas Engineering with Engineer Enrico Grillo and Architect Joseph Alan Valia.
"The Living Chapel is a small jewel of architecture, small in size but with multiple aspects to be managed and implemented in synergy with each other through a holistic and multidisciplinary approach. It was a great challenge, and also exciting, to see the vision of Integral Ecology of Pope Francis' Encyclical Laudato Si' translated into practice. I hope the visitors can really have an experience of ecological conversion," explained Mr. Grillo.
The supply of many plants and the construction of the plant walls are the work of Verde Verticale.
In collaboration with the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Global Catholic Climate Movement and the Faith for Earth program of the United Nations Environment Programme, the Living Chapel was created with the aim of uniting all people around the common value of safeguarding our planet. Inspiring, educating and encour- aging the world's population to live in harmony with the natural world, the Living Chapel invites countries to support the United Nations Trillion Tree Campaign by planting new trees.
At the end of the summer, in collaboration with SISEF, the 60 Million Tree Program and the Progetto Ossigeno of Regione Lazio, the young trees nurtured by the Living Chapel will be distributed throughout Italy for the recovery of degraded areas and the creation of new Laudato Si’ Gardens.
In collaboration with the Mountain Partnership, hosted at FAO, the Living Chapel is also becoming a global movement for the planting of new Laudato Si' Gardens around the world.