While massive, power-house churches are on the rise, it’s refreshing to know that some people are straying from the pack and seeking a more intimate place to connect. For those who are not entranced by the grand opulence of cathedrals, there are tiny chapels, such as Apostle Peter and St. Helen the Martyr Chapel in Cyprus to warm the soul.
Designed by Greek architect Michail Georgiou on Kerkiras Street, in St. Theodoros area in Pafos, Cyprus, Apostle Peter and St. Helen the Martyr Chapel is a tiny, sculptural treat that welcomes visitors to experience a new kind of worship.
The chapel typology belongs to the double-aisle vaulted orthodox temples. The building program includes a Narthex, a Nave, a side Aisle, a Sanctuary and a Prothesis. Morphologically, it is inspired by the local orthodox ecclesiastical architecture, while, through a series of innovative building methods and materials, it presents a contemporary example. As such, the entire chapel is formed by extruding a section along a longitudinal axis which results in a legible, lightweight and welcoming form.
The interaction of the extrusion with the programmatic elements of the building creates complex moments and rich spaces within the volume. The east and west sides of the extruded form are left open providing covered spaces filtering daylight and views. On the east side, a semi-cylindrical, self-standing element hosting the sanctuary is inserted in the volume. On the west, vertical louvers, forming the bell-tower, provide shading for the entrance of the chapel while a large 5.5-meter-tall door allows the interior to be merged with the exterior. Finally, the landscape, identified by the almond trees complements the synthesis.
The steel structural frame and reinforced concrete walls are bound together by a thin rigid shell, acting as a seismic diaphragm, forming the composite structural system of the chapel. The shell has a total thickness of 100 mm, including thermal insulation, and it has been constructed using Ferrocement, a cementious composite used in the 60's for constructing thin shell structures and boats.
The material and construction techniques have been revived and used for the first time on the island of Cyprus combining traditional and modern construction methods. Ferrocement allows greater precision and flexibility in adapting to the free form shape, at a much lower construction costs.
The Sanctuary Mural and the Iconostasis are emphasized by the filtered entrance light, which penetrates the longitudinal interior of the Chapel. The cupola of the Sanctuary features Virgin Mary and baby Christ, surrounded and celebrated by Seraphim and Cherubim. The figures are highlighted by the highly detailed textile folds and the large spectrum of golden shades. The composition is complemented by elaborated geometric ornaments.
The Iconostasis holds the Icons of Christ, Virgin Mary, Apostle Peter and St. Helen, while allowing selected views to the mural of the Sanctuary through a number of small openings.
Photography by Charis Solomou