New Nuvem church: Created to inspire faith and worship

Simplicity and grace combine with technology and energy conservation to give Nuvem a sanctuary that epitomises sanctity, reverence and decorum
The new Nuvem Church was inaugurated on December 30, 2023, at the hands of the Goa Archbishop Filipe Neri Cardinal Ferrao.
The new Nuvem Church was inaugurated on December 30, 2023, at the hands of the Goa Archbishop Filipe Neri Cardinal Ferrao.Gomantak Times

The heritage churches of Goa have occupied a sacred place in Catholic worship for centuries. With time, many of the smaller religious buildings, like chapels, struggled to hold the burgeoning numbers in larger growing parishes.

In the village of Nuvem, with an estimated Catholic faith of 17,000, the Church of Mae dos Pobres, along the highway was too small to accommodate the parishioners.

The new Nuvem Church was inaugurated on December 30, 2023, at the hands of the Goa Archbishop Filipe Neri Cardinal Ferrao.
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Ten years after the proposed idea of building a new church, the recently completed contemporary premises, now stands tall, representing the communion of faith and changing times.

It was inaugurated on December 30, 2023, at the hands of the Goa’s Archbishop Filipe Neri Cardinal Ferrao.

The main altar is made of a carved wooden panel and bears local motifs reminiscent of the altars in heritage churches.
The main altar is made of a carved wooden panel and bears local motifs reminiscent of the altars in heritage churches.

SOME BACKGROUND

The Mae dos Pobres Church, originally a private family chapel built in 1695, was later elevated to a church in 1903.

The church has Neo-Roman-Mannerist architectural features, with its façade neatly divided into three parts with pilasters and openings.

The new Nuvem Church was inaugurated on December 30, 2023, at the hands of the Goa Archbishop Filipe Neri Cardinal Ferrao.
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Given its background as a chapel, the old church holds a limited seating capacity of 200-250 people. An additional front porch and side wings, built in the 1970s, catered to the needs of the growing parish.

Years of wear and tear rendered structural damage to the heritage structure, with cracks on the internal walls and paint peeling off.

Architects Tulio de Sousa and Ketak Nachinolkar, along with their team, were tasked with meeting the challenge of conceptualizing a new church to hold about 1,500.

The interior of the new church can accommodate about 1,500 people.
The interior of the new church can accommodate about 1,500 people.

The architects proposed to retain the heritage structure of the village while delivering a striking, modern church in deliberate contrast. It would highlight the glory of the existing old structure and proclaim the identity of the new place and its people.

Says Tulio, “The old structure has, in terms of its use, outlived its existence. But, we decided to further restore the old church to its former glory due to its heritage value. We wanted to build another church in contemporary style in line with the old church without competing with it.”

The new Nuvem Church was inaugurated on December 30, 2023, at the hands of the Goa Archbishop Filipe Neri Cardinal Ferrao.
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CONTEMPORARY DESIGN

Few raised questions, in recent weeks, over the design of the church in comparison to the old building.

But, modern church architecture isn’t new to Goa with the previous existence of Our Lady of Grace Church and the Carmelite Monastery in Margao; the Don Bosco Shrine in Panjim; and the recent Holy Cross Church in Quepem.

The church bears a design indicative of Noah’s Ark. The curved roof hints at the outline of the biblical ship, and the front glass cladding displays a stained glass artwork of the Holy Family.
The church bears a design indicative of Noah’s Ark. The curved roof hints at the outline of the biblical ship, and the front glass cladding displays a stained glass artwork of the Holy Family.

Unlike the heritage churches that addressed the needs of the colonial era, the current design carries simplicity and grace using scientific technology and energy conservation.

This new church is built by the parishioners, ably guided by the parish priest as a manifestation of the people’s aspirations and local traditions.

Contemporary church architecture also imbibes traditional elements and certain vernacular features while embracing modern, minimalistic design sensibilities to enhance the spiritual experience of the faithful.

The opulent ornamentation and grandeur of the intricately carved altars and sacred paintings of the past interiors make way for a simple, centred focus on Christ’s sacrifice at the altar.

It further heightens the transcendent experience with God.

The choir loft can accommodate 300 people.
The choir loft can accommodate 300 people.

The new church of Nuvem is a testimony to the architectural vocabulary of the current times. The lower rim of the new church, of exposed laterite masonry, symbolises that it is deeply rooted in the Goan ethos.

Adding to a sense of spatial continuity between both structures, the beams of the new church are attached to the one at the side, creating a unique atrium with skylights and have double height.

The new Nuvem Church was inaugurated on December 30, 2023, at the hands of the Goa Archbishop Filipe Neri Cardinal Ferrao.
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The challenge was accommodating a large church premises on a space of 85 to 90 metres by about 45 metres.

The church building creates a clean, modern, symbolic design indicative of Noah’s Ark. The curved roof hints at the outline of the biblical ship, and the front glass cladding displays a stained glass artwork of the Holy Family.

This modern architectural sensibility comes through in the clean lines with light grey walls and the side buttresses in dark grey cement.

A slight elevation in the plinth raises the structure through a flight of steps and ensures visibility from a distance. A beautiful mural of Jesus calming the waters creates that ambience of reverence as you walk in.

The team maintained the typical features of church buildings with the cruciform ground plan found in medieval churches.

The new Nuvem Church was inaugurated on December 30, 2023, at the hands of the Goa Archbishop Filipe Neri Cardinal Ferrao.
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The expansive columnless layout allows for spacious seating without feeling congested inside. The architects considered the wind and light movements to maintain a natural flow of cross ventilation and light without the use of air-conditioning and excessive artificial light.

Tulio explains, “This was important to minimize the energy requirements and the cost of maintenance of the church, being a public building.”

As you walk down, the gradual slope enhances the visual connection of the rear pews, and leads you closer to the main altar made of a wooden carved panel bearing local motifs reminiscent of the altars in heritage churches.

Your attention is drawn to the centre crucifix that is flanked by statues of the patroness, Mae dos Pobres, the Holy family, besides St Joseph, and the tabernacle encased in a large steel chalice.

The new Nuvem Church was inaugurated on December 30, 2023, at the hands of the Goa Archbishop Filipe Neri Cardinal Ferrao.
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The design of the sanctuary epitomises the sanctity, reverence and decorum associated with the solemnity and conduct of a religious service. The choir loft, above, can accommodate another 300 people.

The flooring maintains the traditional floral designs of the Art Deco period used in the old churches along the central aisle, while the rest bears a single motif against a plain beige tile.

The spacious sacristy behind the main altar provides a calming vestry for the priests to prepare for the service. 

The design uses an interplay of natural light to create a sublime divine experience as you sit in the spacious pews. The symbolism of light shines through the beautiful, stained glass window artworks of the Blessed Virgin Mary across the interiors.

The new Nuvem Church was inaugurated on December 30, 2023, at the hands of the Goa Archbishop Filipe Neri Cardinal Ferrao.
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A special provision for mothers with babies, or small children, along the northern periphery of the church offers privacy, yet helps them follow the service from the windows that open out to the naïve.

Spacious ramps on the sides of the church allow for easy access for all the faithful, including senior citizens and the differently-abled.

An additional hall in the basement can accommodate a larger gathering and can be utilised by the parish for other social programmes. 

The old and new converse stories of faith and continue to draw the faithful closer to the divinity in solemn prayer and worship.

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