There are countless beautiful churches – whether romantic or gothic, baroque or modern – and everywhere they teach us about the history of Europe, witnesses of times long since past. Churches become much more important again on December 24, when many people attend a Christmas service. For most people, this attendance remains an annual occasion: the church is increasingly being overlooked. The increase in the number of people disaffiliating themselves from the church is a reason that an ever-increasing number of parishes are converting church buildings due to a lack of finances.
A sofa instead of an altar
In Hamburg, around 13 churches have been sold so far, one of them being St Stephanus Church in the Eimsbüttel area of the city. In 2012, Engel & Völkers Commercial rented the church to digital marketing agency “elbdudler” via a private investor. Instead of the altar, a comfy sofa seating corner can be found. These pioneers feel at home in the gulf between digital advancement and the medieval surroundings. What’s it like to work in a deconsecrated church building? “I find our workplace inspiring. The high ceilings and the unique atmosphere symbolically express a space for creative potential,” says Julian Vester, CEO of elbdudler.
We need ideas!
Even though many people find it new and somewhat unusual, converting churches brings with it new opportunities and, at best, saves them from demolition. Due to the financial shortages in church parishes, it is important that we are early to adjust our thinking. Architects, pastors and church members are all equally called upon here. Would you like to see inside a deconsecrated church building? This monumental construction dating from 1628 in the centre of Valencia consists of a church, an abbey and a garden. It offers creative people the opportunity to start up, for example, a hotel or a special event space in these unusual rooms.
An automobile workshop, a luxury loft apartment and a theatre
In Germany, the conversion of sacred buildings is only growing slowly. In the USA, there are already property advisors specialised in this field. Other European countries are increasingly changing their thinking. The upper part of Westbourne Grove Church in London’s classy Notting Hill being sold nine years ago and a 450 m² luxury apartment was created. It meant that the church could be renovated. Even in Italy, a Catholic country, more churches are being converted due to austerity measures. One of the buildings is now being used as an automobile workshop. The Italian photographer Andrea di Martino captures these fascinating images with his camera – worth a look!
Our tip: Do you want to find out more about historical properties in general? In this video, Christoph Freiherr von Schenck, expert in castles and manor houses at Engel & Völkers, explains what is important when selling a historical property.