My Kind of Churches!

My Kind of Churches! October 29, 2015

In my recent travels, I’ve come upon several churches that have been repurposed to adapt to changing times and needs.   France is full of lovely old churches finding new ways to serve their communities.

Here’s the Sainte Marie Church in Sarlat-La-Caneda that was first built in the 12th century. (Ignore the hunched gremlin in the corner.)

sarlat church market

It has served as a weapons factory, a health center, post office and for the last 15 years as a marketplace.  It was great fun finding it on a stroll through town and seeing how this huge space is being put to good use, nourishing bodies instead of (non-existent) souls.

In St. Remy, where Van Gogh lived and painted for a while, this little church is being used to display art by modern painters and to announce community events.

St Remy Church

In the lovely southern hill town of Gordes, this quaint structure in the center of town looks just like the church it once was, but it is now an art gallery.

Gordes Church

Back in the USA, I recently visited a former church that I’d been hearing about for several years, The Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh. It started out as St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in 1902 as a parish for the huge number of workers and their families in the city’s fast growing industrial economy. The Dioceses closed it in 1993 and it reopened as a restaurant and brewery three years later.   The place is really thriving!   If I’d known it would be so busy, I would have made reservations.  As it was, I just went in to take a few pictures.  Here’s a photo of the altar.  No more turning water into wine.  This is real beer, being brewed on the spot.

Church Brew house

And check out this fresco in which a cherub is raising a cup.

Church Brew works fresco

Pittsburgh, like many urban and rural areas, is closing a lot of its churches for lack of members.  But resourceful people are finding all sorts of new uses for them.

Think for a minuteWhat creative uses have you seen for abandoned churches?

Use your imagination – What could churches be used for in the future, as the “nones” continue to grow and more people leave organized religion?

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>>>Photo Credits:  Linda LaScola and Carolyn Klatka Reynolds

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  • chemical

    The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey is a very old church that was converted into a mosque when Turks sacked Constantinople. When Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, secularized the nation, he converted the Hagia Sophia into a museum. Today it houses some very nice artwork and Islamic calligraphy.

  • Linda_LaScola

    Yes, indeed — I’ve been there too and didn’t think of featuring it as a repurposed church, but it certainly is. It’s a fabulous, unforgettable museum.

    So now we have church as art gallery, community center, restaurant, museum — what else?

  • Take a look at the Oran Mor in Glasgow (oran-mor.co.uk) It the former Kelvinside parish church and now a superb arts and entertainment venue. It’s a must-visit if you are in Glasgow.

  • Linda_LaScola

    Thanks – it’s beautiful. I especially like the “wedding venue” area. http://oran-mor.co.uk/venue-hire/weddings/

    It looks just like a church, because it is one, except I suppose it’s de-sanctified, or something.

  • mason

    homes, nightclubs, businesses, community centers, …endless possibilities…unfortunately some are being converted to mosques which is even IMO worse than the prior use. http://io9.com/beautiful-churches-that-have-been-converted-into-secula-583156045

  • Lookingup73

    Great pictures. I know where I will be headed summer 2017 – France! Used to live there for several years and get the itch to return to the countryside (“la province”) every 2-3 years. Thanks for the inspiration! Have you traveled in Auvergne much? These pictures reminded me a bit of the small villages I saw in my time living there. I don’t know about how the churches have been repurposed, but i think you would love that region.

  • Linda_LaScola

    Your link, Mason, had some beautiful conversions into homes — but I’m afraid they’d be drafty – and cost a fortune to heat — which I guess is the case with active churches now.

    I agree about the mosques — didn’t know that was happening.

  • That’s a great selection.

    I found a modified church like like this in Hereford, England. It was a small church that still had services on Sunday, but in the back was a cafe. More here.

  • Linda_LaScola

    Nice! An Episcopal church I used to go to in DC has a “pub lunch” every Sunday after the 11AM service, with a bar set up at the back of the parish hall.

  • mason

    just speculating, but probably those who take on the church conversion project won’t lose any sleep over heating/cooling costs

  • Linda_LaScola

    Never been to Auvergne. This trip was to Loire and Provence and past trips have been to the French side of Lake Geneva where my husband has family. Everywhere I’ve been in France has been beautiful and delicious. Can say the same for Italy.

  • The Eh’theist

    I know of a church that was purchased by a PR/Social Media company. They’re an open concept group who love the light and acoustics when they have a late night deadline and music is loud. Their clients love when they do photo shoots there as the wood and colours and light makes things look great, especially photos for social media profiles. Their only real challenge was trying to put in a small audio recording area without ruining the look and the lines of of the interior.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    I would love to see a church turned into an internet library. I.e. Free wifi, and tons of workstations and printers. In my area most libraries offer wifi and have workstations for those w/o any kind of hardware. But a CHURCH building dedicated to just the internet would be awesome. Something ‘invisible’ that you can actually use. Edit, oh and the brewpub is cool too.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    Oh, and for the ultimate in irony, a church turned into a strip club would break the meter.

  • Linda_LaScola

    Thanks, Cozmo — I prefer your Internet library idea — futuristic vs retro, serious vs silly and useful to everyone. I hope it happens somewhere soon.

  • Elizabeth.

    I’ve been wondering, if there was a historical Jesus, what he would think…. that character would likely think some of these ideas are improvements : ) That’s been a fun thought experiment. …..Mosque-wise, peaceful muslims should be a huge help in today’s existential crisis… maybe more effective than peaceful churches could be…. or even pubs : ) …..Internet library would be awesome