A short walk from the main shopping boulevard of Podgorica reveals an interesting architectural specimen, the Church of the Holy Heart of Jesus, the only Catholic temple in this otherwise largely Orthodox capital city.
This surprising sight looms slightly ominously against the backdrop of rocky hills (one of which gives Podgorica its name). In a way, it honors its surrounds—the slick, concrete façade is austere and overwhelmingly stone grey. The church was built in 1969, at the height of Yugoslavia’s “golden age” of prosperity. It is a fine example of brutalist architecture, which was still very much in fashion at the time. However not many religious buildings were constructed in the style, making this Podgorica temple quite unique.
The lines of the structure are straight and clean, the concrete smooth and shiny, and the windows notably absent. The church boasts an imposing 130-foot-tall bell tower and is nicely shaded by surrounding conifers. Yes, it might look a little like a bunker at first sight, but it’s an interesting and oddly calming monument that’s worth a short visit. Even though the place is situated right by a super-busy main road, there is definitely no unnecessary noise here, and it feels like a modern oasis of peace.
The interior of the church is kept similarly simple and quiet. Interestingly, the exposed concrete walls do not feel as oppressive as one might imagine. Although the building has virtually no windows, there is a cleverly designed skylight above the altar, giving the main part of the church a halo of sunlight. There are also simple but futuristic lights along the walls, reminiscent of a spaceship. The central feature is an impressive backlit cross, which gives a somewhat otherworldly glow.
This church is an intriguing sight, both from the inside and the outside, and not just for architecture lovers. It’s a strangely calming and completely unique place.
Know Before You Go
The church is a 15-minute walk from the Kraljev Park (King’s Park) in Nova Varoš, downtown. Follow Bulevar Svetog Petra Cetinjskog southeast. The boulevard will change its name to Pete Proleterske Brigade at some point. It will take you over one small bridge and under one railway viaduct. When you get to a big roundabout, immediately after a petrol station, you will see the church on your left.