Feb 8, 2009

God Redux

Let's make this clear: I am not a church-going persona. Not at all. I was raised as a catholic but somewhere around my teen years I decided religion is not for me, in any shape or form.

Nevertheless I acknowledge the simple fact that churches, convents and monasteries can be amazing places due to their architecture or their history, so from time to time, -specially when I am traveling- I set my foot in one of those places just to be wowed by their looks.

Some churches are recognized worldwide like the Duomo di Milan or La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, but there are hundreds (if not thousands) of churches that are not so known and are still one of a kind. For example, the one at the left is in Buenos Aires, Argentina -to be exactly in Olivos- and the sight of its walls totally covered by a climbing plant is simply incredible.

But what about the not-sacred-anymore churches? Those that -as a tango lyrics goes- "have been, but are not anymore". I am talking about churches that have been converted -no pun intended- into something else.

So today I just want to share with you some of those wonderful transformations.

First, my favorite: the Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht -a bookstore inside a former Dominican church-, by Dutch architects Merkx+Girod. Their work won the Lensvelt Architect Interior Prize in 2007...

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I personally like the idea that with the transformation the old church became a place to "worship knowledge" through many books, instead of being a place of worship that mainly uses just one very, very, very old book...

The main focal point of the place though, that is their coffee shop/reading room attracted (of course!) some controversy. You can see by yourself why:

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click to enlarge You can see a few more pictures of this bookstore here.

Three other interesting "conversions" are in Glasgow, Milan and Peru.

The first is Oran Mor, now a cultural centre and meeting place in the heart of Glasgow's West End. Inside are two bars, two restaurants, a nightclub and stunning private event space available for hire in this converted church, formerly Kelvinside Parish Church.

From outside:
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A close up of the ceiling:

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The one in Milan, now known as "Il Gatopardo Cafe" it's a Disco-Bar that has also been used as a photo set. Here is why:

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Last but not least in Cuzco, Peru, you can sleep in what used to be a monastery -built in 1592- that is now one of the best hotels in Latin America. Known as "Hotel Monasterio" (duh!) is an impressive place that is also the ideal spot to stay when visiting Cusco and the ancient ruins at Machu Picchu.

Check it out:

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Obviously, these are not the only examples out there. In Cartagena (Colombia) you can find a monastery and a convent converted into luxury hotels (Sofitel Santa Clara and Charleston Santa Teresa) and I wrote before about the small convent in Buenos Aires that became a designed Bed & Breakfast in Bs As.

If you are interested in the matter, you may want to take a look at "Eglises Reconverties" (Converted Churches), a book that portrays churches that have been restored to become something else, a bookstore, a school or a hotel. Some of the pictures posted here are from that book but the ones from Cuzco are from my friend's Otavio trip to Peru (you can see more of his amazing pictures of Peru at his flickr photostream)

I am sure there are some more interesting conversions out there. Someone told me that a church is now a disco somewhere in Colorado and I heard about a church that was remodeled to become a cinema somewhere in Europe. If you know about other interesting transformations of churches, please let me know!


Anonymous said...

You can't forget the steel city stronghold, The Church Brew Works. Where else can you find an alter converted for brewing heavenly suds? http://www.churchbrew.com/

San said...

wow, thanks for the link! The "photos" link in their home page doesn't work but I was able to find this other picture browsing the site

Love it... :)

Anonymous said...

The disco/nightclub is in Denver, CO at 11th and Lincoln. Not sure what denomination the church was before the conversion. The nightclub is called....wait for it...The Church.

Jon said...

There is a concert venue/night club in Pontiac, Michigan called Clutch Cargos that used to be a church. It's a sweet place to see a show these days, and they still have all the old stained glass in the windows.


support.unity said...

This is nothing special. My church has a fully functioning starbucks in it and its still a church.

Shekou Jim said...

How about the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute computer center - a beautiful old church completely redone inside to properly worship the power of the bit.

San said...

Thanks for the tip... I guess is this one?

Anonymous said...

Hobbs + Black Architects renovated a church to incorporate their offices...located in Ann Arbor, MI.

Quite nice, actually.

Anonymous said...

There is a church in Manhattan that is converted to a club. it was actually in an episode of sex in the city. the best thing about it...one night a week it was a gay club. fantastic

San said...

In Buenos Aires there is a "palace" (gorgeous place, btw) that was also converted to a disco and that also was one day a week a gay disco. It has many names through the years but the one I liked the best was "El Infierno" (Hell)

Anonymous said...

Don't forget about Limelight in NYC - now called Avalon. It used to be a church on 6th Ave. Very popular in the 90's, until the infamous Michael Alig murders (subject of the film Party Monster).

thefunkyrooster said...

There is also a restaurant converted from an old chapel right here in Singapore. Read more here:


Go said...

Such great places... so sad!

Anonymous said...

And in Dublin..