Santa Maria degli Angeli Chapel
Monte Tamaro
Canton of Ticino

Mario Botta 1990-1996; paintings by Enzo Cucchi

On the furthest extremity of this building, hanging at an altitude of 1500 meters, is a mechanic structure of chains and pulleys carrying a Bell. The Bell has three names inscribed on its surface: Egidio Cattaneo, Mario Botta and Enzo Cucchi. 

Mr Cattaneo, a local tycoon and owner of the Monte Tamaro cable car, commissioned this votive chapel in remembrance of his deceased wife. It is said that Botta had the whole mountain to choose a place for the building; in a very practical move the chapel was located close to the cable car station at the top. In that position it becomes part of the recreational facilities of the ski resort, but maintains the uninterrupted view from the cliff into the valley. 


This project consists of a cylindrical volume, a long bridge and a smaller stepped bridge that flies over the chapel entrance and runs perpendicular to the main axis. These three elements are interconnected in a fairly straightforward way under strict rules of symmetry. The project of the chapel is labyrinthine; it is an infinite path for meditation and thought. There are different readings to these routes of circulation, from the most evident following the long bridge from the ground up to the edge of the cliff and the unlimited view from the roof of the chapel, to others more circular and obscure. 

The first path takes the visitor to a small balcony with a cross that stands against the infinitude (an encounter with the universe perhaps). Then, the visitor would turn around and reach the lower level, descending by the staggered roof of the chapel and onto the second smaller bridge to finally end up at the reflecting glass door of the cylinder (an encounter with himself). Walking into the small chapel the visitor will find an intimate space of black cement-plastered walls and a soft indirect light penetrating through low windows which point downwards towards the valley; natural light also comes in via the indented tier system of the roof. A linear gap ending up in a square and filled with water (another Botta icon) guides the visitor towards the altar. Behind it there is a blue fresco of two hands by Enzo Cucchi which turns white as it fuses with light (an encounter with God). 

Enzo Cucchi's most striking work is however the depiction of two cypresses running along the vaulted axis from underneath the entrance of the bridge by the side of the hill all the way into the chapel. To view this work it is necessary to take another route from underneath the main bridge in an elevated tunnel with circular windows. There is a sense of timelessness given the function of the building, its location and the almost primitive quality of the porphyre stone of which the project is made. The building like the rest of Botta's work is bound to its geometry and proportions. Surprising and most gratifying is the number of situations that the building as a complex promenade offers.

Ludwig Abache 2002


How to visit

You need to take the Cable Car from Rivera. The last lift is at 4 p.m. Details are available in English at  or e-mail or call +41 91 946 2303.

To reach Rivera: By car, take the motorway A2 - exit at Rivera-Monte Ceneri. There is a parking lot for the guests of the cable car. By train: From Bellinzona or Lugano, take a local train and get off at the Rivera-Bironico station. The cable car is within walking distance. 

Books and other web sites

Mario Botta's own website provides information and photographs at

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