giovedì 16 luglio 2009

ON LE CORBUSIER'S "OBSERVATORY" CHURCH

by Francesco Colafemmina

During the past few days the famous so called “church” of Le Corbusier in Firminy-Vert – France - risked to be burned into the scuffles that took place in the banlieu of Saint Etienne.
The riots were provoked by the suspect death of a young algerian man: a similar event to many others in the past, when the death of a young black guy was just the fuse that put fire on the surrounding of Paris. The event of these days come after the refusal of UNESCO to insert a set of building conceived by Le Corbusier in the human cultural heritage program.

Coming back to the church of Saint Pierre, we know that it was commissioned to Le Corbusier on 1961. The first project was cause of a singular trial of strength between the well known architect and the bishop. The last one infact was trying to realize a less expansive and less “magnifique” project that that one of mr. Le Corbusier. But the big swiss architect died in 1965, leaving only some drafts of the work that was so completed by his student José Oubrerie. The first stone was positioned on the 28th of May 1970, but the construction itself started only during the 1973. After a slow progress of the works the construction was stopped several times, up to 1978, when the Church was abandoned and defined as unaccomplished.
Slowly slowly, after obtaining – despite its incompleteness – the avowal of National Monument on 1983 by president Mitterand, and after being revalued on 1993, the works will start one more time only on 2004, under the control of the Le Corbusier Foundation and the supervision of the old Josè Oubrerie. So the church was open on November 2006. While the upper part of the church is in fact a temple after the dedication that took place on June 29th 2007 , the lower ambient is used as research center on Le Corbusier with an annexed museum.
So far the history of this famous architectural work. Let’s follow now deeply the real structure of this church. I believe that there are still few scholars that have been interested on the “astronomic” nature of this complex. The church, in fact, with a pyramidal shape is oriented on the solar rise of the constellation of Orion on June 29th, St. Peter and Paul holiday (the church is in fact dedicated to St. Peter).
So it happen that on the morning of June 29th through the holes in the eastern wall of the church the constellation of Orion is designed over the altar, together with the constellation of Taurus.

If we look at the structure from outside, we will notice however some channels or conducts that are similar to astronomical pointers (like those in the Cheope pyramid in Giza). One of them is oriented on west side, one more on south and another on south-east. So, is necessary not only to be concentrated on the east side (the wall with the holes), but also on west and south. So, let’s see the astronomical events on the latitude of Firminy that I personally enquired.
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On June 29th, on the sunrise, the sun is rising in the constellation of Orion. In the same time the western pointer indicates the constellation of Aquila, and the southern one is oriented on the constellation of Pisces. Starting from this coincidence we cannot hesitate to notice what happen in two more important dates: December 25th and March 25th (traditional date of Christ’s death). On December 25th at midnight on east is rising the Leo, the southern pointer indicates Orion and the western one the Pisces. At the zenith is the star Capella (lamb) of the constellation Auriga. So on March 25th between 12.00 and 13.00 (the ora sexta of the Gospels), on the south the sun is in the Pisces, on east is rising Orion, and on the west side is coming the Aquila. On March 27th (the Resurrection), at the sunrise, the sun will rise in the Pisces.
Those astronomical references are really clear and express the intention of the architect to transform the church of Saint Pierre into an astronomical observatory, capable to indicates in the stars the most important facts of Christianity. With a symbolic meaning the Pisces indicates Christ resurrected “Ichtus” (Iesus Christos Theou Uios Soter), the Leo is the “lion of the tribe of Jude”. The Capella indicates the lamb. The Aquila is the eagle of St. John. But Orion? What does it mean Orion?

Although St. Gregory in the Commentary to Job says that Orion is symbol of the martyrs, anyway the constellation of Orion has a more significant meaning in the Mithraic religion. Orion is infact the representation into the stars of Mithras killing the bull. Is so a casuality that Orion-Mithras is the God of a Manichean teaching that was recovered by the Catharism? We will not be surprised to know that mr. Le Corbusier was a strong admirer of the Cathars. His real name - Charles Edouard Jeanneret -, was changed in Le Corbusier that means “the man that clean the excrements of the crows” from a suggestion of a cathar ancestor of him. In the same way he was thinking of himself as the “cleaner” of the modern architecture in a deeply Gnostic meaning. Furthermore In the gnosis the constellation of Orion Mithras was considered as the star gate of the souls in order to introduce man into his deification. That this is the correct reading of the work is also showed by the study of J. K. Birksted "Le Corbusier and the Occult". According to the author, also if the wall of the church with the holes that design Orion and Taurus was not completely conceived as it is now by Le Corbusier, anyway he took for sure this idea from the starry roof of the Masonic Loge de l'Amitié in La Chaux-de-Fonds, near Neuchatel. One of the oldest swiss lodge of which Birksted suppose Le Corbusier was member.

On the light of what highlighted through my research is clear that the typical question of how the sacred architecture today is influenced by the Archistars, big and well known names, now as in the ’60 is still on the ground. And too often the priests and bishops commissioning a new church have renounced to control and check the “catholicity” of the House of Our Lord. If is true, in fact, that to every architect must be given a copy of the catechism, is also true that those people that should know the catechism (priests and bishops), must always supervise the realization of a church avoiding the interpolation of symbolic or semantic flaws, and saving the liturgical and theological correctness of the temple of God. Also because if in an unlucky case such an ambiguous and not so catholic church like this of Le Corbusier were to be built, we cannot think that there will always be some young anarchists ready to destroy it!

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