The Barolo Chapel: Sol LeWitt's Colourful Church in Italy

Here is the story of the Barolo Chapel, a non-consecrated church that was transformed into a work of art by Sol LeWitt and David Tremlett in the heart of northern Italy's Piedmont region.

The Barolo Chapel. Photo: Ceretto Vini
The Barolo Chapel. Photo: Ceretto Vini

When one thinks of the Piedmont region, food and wine comes to mind, from Barolo wine to truffles and hazelnuts. However, the region also holds a special treasure, a work of contemporary art set amongst the rolling hills and vineyards. 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of a unique project by Sol LeWitt and David Tremlett: the Barolo Chapel, marked by its bright and luminous colours.

The Barolo Chapel. Photo: Ceretto Vini
The Barolo Chapel. Photo: Ceretto Vini

The Barolo Chapel is actually a deconsecrated church, or rather a church that has never been consecrated. The building was originally built in 1914 by farmers working in the surrounding vineyards and used as a temporary shelter in case of bad weather. Initially called Cappella delle SS. Madonnas of Grace, it never became a place of worship officially.

In the 1970s, the Ceretto family purchased over 14 acres of the prestigious Brunate vineyard, and along with the land, also acquired the Chapel, which had been reduced to ruins after years of neglect. In 1997, Anglo-Swiss installation artist David Tremlett was setting up an exhibition in the castle of Barolo and the Ceretto family hosted him at the Castiglione Falletto estate. Thus a friendship was born, and the Cerettos – always lovers and connoisseurs of contemporary art – gladly accepted Tremlett's proposal to transform the old church into a work of art.

The Ceretto family in front of the Barolo Chapel. Photo: Marco Varoli
The Ceretto family in front of the Barolo Chapel. Photo: Marco Varoli

In 1998 the renovations started and the following year Tremlett partnered with Sol LeWitt, the father of American conceptual art, on the project. LeWitt covered the exterior walls with a geometric design of bright colours: orange, green, purple, yellow and red, creating wavy patterns recalling the surrounding hills. The interior, on the other hand, was designed and created by Tremlett who used earth-coloured tones and materials, such as marble and Murano glass. 

Interior of the Barolo Chapel by David Tremlett. Photo via Gucki.it
Interior of the Barolo Chapel by David Tremlett. Photo via Gucki.it

The church has thus become a true work of contemporary art in the middle of the Piedmont region. On the 20th anniversary of the Barolo Chapel, various events and celebrations are scheduled for this autumn during harvest season. You can find information on the Ceretto Vini website.

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