Antonio Barluzzi is known as the ‘Architect of the Holy Land,’ he was an Italian architect who became famous for designing, among many others, the pilgrimage churches at the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Beatitudes, on Mount Tabor, and at the tomb of Lazarus in Bethany.
Antonio Barluzzi was born in Rome on 26 September 1884. Barluzzi initially considered becoming a priest. On the advice of his spiritual mentor and the encouragement of his older brother Giulio, who was already an architect, he entered the engineering school at the Sapienza University in Rome to architecture.
Furthermore, he was drawn to religious architecture as his maternal grandfather was the architect responsible for maintaining St. Peter’s Basilica. His first project was a collaboration with his brother Giulio involving the design of the 100-bed Italian hospital in Jerusalem.
Then, Barluzzi started working for the Franciscan order, restoring and building churches that had fallen into disrepair or were destroyed during earlier centuries. Between 1912 and 1955, Barluzzi reshaped some of Christianity’s most significant sacred spaces, including the Garden of Gethsemane, Mount Tabor, the Mount of Beatitudes, and the tomb of Lazarus.
He died in December 1960 in Rome.
Antonio Barluzzi’s Contribution to Israel
So Barluzzi’s most outstanding contributions to Israel were the design of significant churches and sacred houses of Christianity. The Franciscans asked him to design and build churches atop the ruins of Byzantine and Crusader churches that had been destroyed or fallen into disrepair during the Ottoman period.
He dedicated his life to the Holy Land, designing nine new sanctuaries on behalf of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. Between 1912 and 1955, Barluzzi built or restored 24 churches, hospitals, and schools. His first designs were on Mount Tabor and in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane
In Barluzzi’s design of the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane, he leaves the interior in semi-darkness to evoke the night-time of the Agony, relieved only by subdued natural light filtered through violet-blue alabaster windows. The church has 12 small domes to represent the Apostles.
The most spectacular aspect of the church’s design is the magnificent façade of classic Roman inspiration with a triple round arch supported by four giant pilasters and columns topped with Corinthian capitals.
Antonio Barluzzi Built the Church of the Transfiguration, Mount Tabor
Barluzzi drew inspiration from the Church of St. Simeon the Stylite near Aleppo, in northern Syria, to design the Church of the Transfiguration, Mount Tabor. The Catholic Church stands among the ruins of a Benedictine monastery, and a bas-relief of the architect is set into a wall on the right of the entrance.
The Church of the Hospice of the Good Shepherd, Jericho
The Church of the Hospice of the Good Shepherd in Jericho is a small church built by the Custody to meet the needs of the local Christian community. Unlike his other grander designs, this church has a simple, rustic design to create the feeling of a small, welcoming community church.
The Church of Visitation, En Karem
Built on the spot where the Virgin Mary is traditionally believed to have met Elizabeth, the Church of Visitation in En Karem was supported by the Custos, Father Alberto Gori. Barluzzi lived on-site when the church was being built and completed two designs for the crypt and one for the church. Barluzzi appears in a fresco on the church wall he designed at Ein Karem.
The Church of St. Lazarus, Bethany
This beautiful Catholic church was built by Antonio Barluzzi in 1954 and featured mosaics depicting the events there. Barluzzi designed a crypt-like, windowless church into which light floods from the large oculus in its dome to contrast the sadness of death with the joy of resurrection.
The Church of the Angels, Shepherds Fields, Bethlehem – Beit Sahur
The tent-shaped Chapel of the Angels in Bethlehem’s Shepherds Fields adjoins the remains of a 4th-century church and a later agricultural monastery. The chapel features paintings that depict the angel’s announcement to the shepherds, the shepherds paying homage to Jesus, and the shepherds celebrating the birth of the Messiah.
Dominus Flevit, Mount of Olives
Barluzzi designed Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives as a teardrop to symbolize Christ’s grief over the city. The spectacular church has tear vials on the four corners of its dome.
Antonio Barluzzi Builds The Church of the Beatitudes, Galilee
Built in 1938 for a Franciscan order of nuns, the Church of the Beatitudes is an elegant octagonal building with colonnaded cloisters. It was partly financed by the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. The church is designed in an octagonal shape in memory of the eight beatitudes of Christ.