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Stella Maris (ph. Dario Garofalo)

text Francesca Lombardi

July 3, 2024

Stella Maris, the story of Porto Cervo’s church

Everything you need to know about the masterpiece designed by Busiri Vici in the 1960s

There’s a small church that seems to watch over Porto Cervo. Stella Maris, star of the sea, greets the many yachts that sail into the bay and - as the current parish priest, the young Don Giorgio Diana, confirms - continues to watch over the inhabitants in winter too, when the vibrant mix of tourists and locals fades.

Stella Maris (ph. Dario Garofalo)

Designed by Michele Busiri Vici, one of four architects involved in the development of Costa Smeralda, one of the world’s most exclusive and sought-after destinations, the church was built in 1965 on land donated to the local Christian community by Prince Karim Aga Khan, the religious leader of the Ismaili Muslims, who wanted a tangible proof of his love for this area of Sardinia. It was a generous gesture of inter-religious and ecumenical dialogue and a testament to the intriguing prince’s open-mindedness. A minor masterpiece of modern religious architecture with austere style and gently curving walls, the church is an ode to the Mediterranean with its luminous whiteness, punctuated only by beams and simple furnishings in fragrant dark juniper wood. There are no angles or corners here, no straight lines or sharp edges, only curved walls, as welcoming as the imaginary hug Busiri Vici wanted to offer as a symbol of welcome. And you could say he succeeded: the church is loved by visitors of many faiths for the feeling of peace and serenity it instils as you step through the doorway carved by the acclaimed sculptor Luciano Minguzzi. After all the circle is an ancient symbol of the divine, but it’s also a persistent motif in Sardinian tradition: the nuraghes, the Giants’ Tombs, and the ballu tundu circle dance, the oldest on the island.

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