Italy's new churches stir debate

Story highlights

  • Despite expensive price tags and celebrity architects, Italy's new churches have their critics
  • Some say the buildings are too materialistic and lack a connection with the past
  • Others have praised the architects for building a new vision of the future

(CNN)What is beauty? What role does it have in spirituality? Is it in the eye of the beholder?

These seemingly innocuous questions have snowballed into a bitter polemic on the Catholic altar, where a battle of aesthetic titans has ensued: religious scholars versus the so-called "starchitects" who have earned multimillion-dollar contracts to build megachurches for the new millennium.
    To arbitrate, Italian photographer Andrea Di Martino looked to find meaning in these newly built houses of God.
      "I wanted to photograph new-but-already-established churches from this millennium ... but I had to explain to a lot of people that I wasn't documenting the demise of the Catholic Church or even the loss of churchgoers but how these churches have now become part of the establishment," he said.
      From Turin to Rome, Di Martino zigzagged through cities where celebrity architects hoped their designs would add to Italy's great architectural landscape.
      Photographing the works of architectural giants such as Paolo Portoghesi, Mario Botta, Richard Meier, Renzo Piano and others, Di Martino explored whether there is a historical continuum with the traditions of Brunelleschi, Bernini, Da Vinci and other artistic geniuses whose religious reverence helped build some of the world's greatest monuments.
      Andrea Di Martino
      Di Martino used a formal approach, photographing these churches from an egalitarian perspective. His camera takes a centralized positi