The church of Santa Maria degli Angeli is 1567m. above sea level near Alpe Foppa, just two steps from the cable car stop. Set on a belvedere the church looks over the whole of the plain of Magadino, as far as the entrance to the Mesolcina, Lugano and valleys, and as far as the imposing peaks of the Alps.
It was designed by the architect Mario Botta at the request of Egidio Cattaneo and built between 1992 and 1994. The interior has been decorated by Enzo Cucchi and the completed work was consecrated on 1st September 1996.
The entire artistic creation was conceived in the 1980s when Mario Botta and Enzo Cucchi met in Zurich. They were both inspired by the idea of a joint project and their opportunity came when Cattaneo approached Botta with a request to design a religious building as a memorial to his wife, Mariangela. Finally ten years later his dream came true.
A votive church at 1500 m. above sea level, Santa Maria degli Angeli is one of the most recently completed sacred projects in our Canton. It is part of the current wave of new Ticinese architecture of which Botta is one of the most active representatives. It is possible to reach the church by foot, hiking along former mule tracks from Riviera and Monte Ceneri leading to Monte Tamaro, or else along the crest of the mountains from Monte Lema to Tamaro. However a convenient cable car (Variante B) means that you can also travel comfortably from Rivera without any effort. There is a restaurant with a terrace in the locality of Alpe Foppa, and a bronze statue of the Madonna of Monte Tamaro a little further on; the latter is a souvenir of the Pope’s visit to Lugano in 1984.
An hour’s walk will take you to the very top of Monte Tamaro where Capanna Monte Tamaro, a mountain refuge run by UTOE, offers food and shelter. From there you can start off on the classic walk over the mountain tops from Tamaro to Lema (Variante A), a long walk along the crests with amazing contemporary views over Lake Ceresio, and Lake Maggiore. Alpe Foppa is a much favoured spot for Para jumping.
Santa Maria degli Angeli
The church has a concrete structure clad in porphyry stone ; this takes the form of a footbridge/viaduct which extends 65m out from the mountainside . At the end of this walkway is a viewing point resting on top of a metal structure housing the bell tower .
From here, turning towards the mountain, it is possible to walk down along the terraced roof of the church as far as a transverse flight of steps and a horizontal communication trench leading to the courtyard at the entrance of the church. This courtyard is a wide rectangular space carved out of the side of the mountain and traversed by steps giving it the look of an amphitheatre.
Another access route snakes under the horizontal communication trench on the side walls, forming the higher starting point from which to reach the entrance to the main body of the church - a cylindrical mass with a diameter of 15 metres. The interior is divided into three parts by two longitudinal separating walls that make an external «corridor», bisecting the interior volume. The slightly vaulted ceiling of this «corridor» defines the central nave leading from the entrance to the little apse jutting out from the main cylinder.
The idea of building a church at the top of Monte Tamaro, 1600 m. above sea level, is an unusual, if not unique reminder of traditions from a time gone by, when religious buildings were constructed more for prestige than necessity. However the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli has a unique history for two reasons; first because the entire project was the initiative of a private layman, thus free from any clerical influence or restriction; secondly because the commissioner chose an architect and an artist to whom he gave creative «carte blanche» to make his dream come true.
Botta was attracted to building a church on Monte Tamaro by his wish to confront man with the immensity of the mountain. The idea was to invent an architectural structure which would give the area a new topography. The architect was faced with an unusual challenge on top of the mountain, where traditional parameters of the relationship between architecture and its context were radically changed. The immensity of the landscape made it difficult to decide where exactly to locate the church.
Mario Botta saw it on a promontory extending towards the valley alongside the plateau near the restaurant. In this project architecture has claimed its privileged right to take possession of the land - mother earth capable of giving birth to a building bearing witness to a culture and an era. The architect decided which interior spaces were to be decorated. There are three essential areas: the long walkway whose ceiling is only perceivable in its entirety once the end is reached; the apse in reinforced concrete lit by a single zenithal light; and the main area of the chapel . A strong zenithal light floods the little apse, decorated by Enzo Cucchi with an engraving of two upturned hands on a blue background fading to white towards the ceiling and darkening to black towards the floor . At ground level the cylinder is illuminated by 11 little windows on either side. These offer glimpses over the valleys below. Each one, set in a concrete block in the thickness of the wall, was inlaid by the artist. Many hands articulate these 22 little windows in their cement blocks, singing the praises of Maria. Padre Giovanni Pozzi (Capucin), distinguished scholar of expressions of prayer and spirituality, composed 22 litanies which Enzo Cucchi interpreted in striking and evocative symbols.
Cucchi’s work is marked by two powerful ‘signs’, one painted on the roof of the central nave inside the church and the other on the communication trench on the outside; they represent a tree and a pair of trees, which, in a single gesture, link the interpretation of space to different architectural elements.
1567 m. above sea level, reachable by cable car from Rivera. Panorama over the Plain of Magadino as far as the beginning of Mesolcina, Lugano and valleys, and the Alps.
Bronze statue dedicated to the Madonna of Monte Tamaro in memory of the visit by the Pope to Lugano in 1984.
Variante A: From Alpe Foppa it is possible to climb up towards Monte Tamaro from whence one can walk along the signed path as far as Monte Lema. Pre-alpine crossing from Tamaro to Lema. This walk offers an opportunity to discover an extraordinary panorama over both lakes- Verbano and Ceresio and the surrounding valleys and mountains. The walk takes 4 and a half hours and is moderately demanding.
Variante B: Rivera - Alpe Foppa (by cable car)
Recommended period: april - october
Key figures for the last 12 months (since September 2015)
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Compared with all other Hiking tours in the Ticino region
Tour history (B00905)
First published: Freitag, 26. Januar 2007
Last updated: Dienstag, 28. Januar 2014
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