The soothing brutalist church of Podgorica

by Fabian Jürgens
Published: Last Updated on

Podgorica isn’t necessarily blessed with an abundance of landmarks worth your attention. Reduced to rubble during World War II, the old town perished under the relentless shelling induced by Allied bombers and reconstruction of the city, then called Titograd, went slowly.

However, beyond the train tracks, set against a dramatic mountain backdrop, a peculiar building demands further investigation. Shaded by tall conifers, unadorned concrete walls rise towards the dull sky. An equally modest bell tower, boasting a cross at the top, looms above dilapidated apartment blocks and single-family houses.

It is a strange ensemble. An unassuming sight.

stairs blocked by a metal fence lead up to a rare catholic church in the brutalist style

Even the front entrance spares splendour. A single bronze statue, depicting a priest, a boy, and a girl, stands motiveless to the left of the main gate. A simple wooden door bar any carvings, the only embellishment an unpretentious shooting star above it.  

Despite its bleak and unremarkable appearance, the building is one of a kind. Erected in 1969 at the hight of the Yugoslavian state, the “Church of the Holy Heart of Jesus” is not only Podgorica’s sole Catholic church, but a house of worship constructed in the communist brutalist style, an absolute rarity given the strong areligious sentiment of the ideology.

bronze statue of a young girl pulling a priests hand and tugging his robes
bronze statue of a priest holding a young boy, while a youg girl pulls his other hand
bronze statue of a young boy being held by a priest
wooden entrance build into the grey concrete of a Catholic church built in the brutalist-style

Once a visitor steps inside the dim confines of the sanctuary, the absence of windows will be the most striking feature. Solitary beams fall through a single skylight, perfectly positioned above the altar, highlighting the marble floor and the church’s main part.

A massive cross, adorning the back wall and illuminated from behind, constitutes the centrepiece of the temple. Some recesses are decorated with painted statues. Clear lines and angles dominate the architecture.

light beams fall through a skylight onto the altar of a catholic church built in the brutalist style
light falls through the skylight inside a brutalist-style church

Besides a couple of paintings depicting the crucifixion of Jesus, the walls are entirely exposed. However, rather than intimidating the atmosphere is surprisingly soothing. Although the church bears more resemblance to a bunker than a house of God, its simplicity carries an unexpected serenity. The bare concrete is strangely peaceful.

In stark contrast to the city’s noise, calmness reigns within these walls.

eight pictures, depicting Jesus's crucifiction, hang on a concrete wall next to rows of wooden benches inside a church
eight pictures, depicting Jesus's crucifiction, hang on a concrete wall next to rows of wooden benches inside a church
a huge cross, illuminated from behind, hangs on the concrete wall in the inner sanctum of a Catholic church built in the Soviet brutalist style

Visiting the church won’t take long. You might just walk in, take a quick look around, and leave again. Or you might stay a little longer, study the minimalist architecture, listen to some nuns reciting passages of the Bible (on their phones), and envision yourself in some dystopian sci-fi universe.

Whatever you’re choosing, a visit is definitely worth it.

I didn’t know concrete walls could be so oddly satisfying.   

statue of a priest in blue robes reading from the bible
statue of a monk holding a blond child and white flowers in his arms

How to get there

From the city centre follow the V Proleterske brigade (Podgorica’s main street) towards the train tracks (to the east). After around 10min, you should spot an underpass. Walk through and continue until you reach the round about on the other side. Now turn left. You will find the church on your left-hand side after roughly 300 metres.

Enjoyed it? Pin it for later!
The brutalist church of Podgorica pin

You may also like

Leave a Comment

* By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More