Church Carcasses

16 Voormalige Kerken

What is the best word for a building that was formerly used (and originally designed) as a church space — but has now been repurposed for some other use?  A church?  A former church?  A church shell?  A church carcass?  Perhaps the last term sounds a bit strong — but I wonder if it might actually be the most accurate description, theologically-speaking.  We’d probably all say that a person is not merely a body — though the body may display some distinct characteristics of the person — and when a person dies, what’s left behind is not a person but a body or a corpse.  I also happen to believe that the church is a living organism, not an architectural feature — though the architectural structure may display some distinct characterstics of the church body for whom it was built — and when a church dies, what’s left behind is not a church but a corpse or a carcass.

I don’t know.  I still haven’t figured out all the terminology for myself — but whatever you call them, there are a lot of these buildings around Amsterdam.

Over the past week or so, I’ve been riding around the city actualizing a photography project that’s been on my mind for quite some time.  I’m seeking out all these grand old cathedrals, originally designed to invoke a sense of God’s glory and awe — but now repurposed for other uses.  So far, I’ve snapped pictures of these urban spaces now being used as community centers, exhibition spaces, offices, museums, conference centers, restaurants… I’ve even found old "church carcasses" currently housing activities as unusual as a night-club, a rock-climbing facility, and a haunted house tourist trap!

When I started out, I thought to myself:  "Ah, no big deal.  It’s an interesting photo project — but it’s not the building that makes a church.  I shouldn’t get worked up about some deeper spiritual meaning to the historical development of the city."  But I have to admit, as I’ve gone along I’ve felt increasingly heavy-hearted.  I’ve felt sad to see so many of these "church carcasses" scattered around, piled up throughout the city.  It’s reminded me of the massive cultural shift that has occured (and is still occuring) in the West over the last 100 years or so (not that these cultural shifts have been all bad, but still…).  It’s very clear to see the declined (and still declining) influence of the Church within our society.  And I see the horrific mortality rate of churches in Amsterdam.  It makes me feel like some kind of Holocaust survivor — being the leader of a struggling-and-striving little church, here amidst all these collosal carcasses.  What hope is there, really, for our future?  Can we seriously hope for a lasting legacy in my family, in my community???

It is encouraging to remember that there are living, growing church communities here in the city.  I thank God for people like those of the Noorderkerk and the Jeruzalemkerk — holding onto life and vitality in their old, architecturally-alluring structures.  And I thank God that many of the most lively church communities I know are meeting in movie theaters and school auditoriums and multi-purpose rented rooms.

But still, a glance at the church carcasses of Amsterdam certainly produces a sense of sobriety.  Probably for the better.  The church (building) is dead; Long live the Church (people)!

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PICTURED ABOVE:

TOP ROW, 1ST COLUMN:  Agnietenkapel – Now owned by the university of Amsterdam (UvA) and used for formal academic occasions such as promotions, graduations, symposiums, and readings.

TOP ROW, 2ND COLUMN:  Oosterkerk – Now used for hosting exhibitions and concerts, potentially could be developed to house a grand cafe and/or a community center (www.oosterkerk-amsterdam.nl)

TOP ROW, 3RD COLUMN:  Amstelkerk – Now owned by Stadsherstel Amsterdam, a non-profit organization designed to restore and maintain the city’s old monumental buildings.  Translated from their website:  "The goal is to give these special and sizeable buildings a successful second life, as cultural centers among other things.  To this end, Stadsherstel seeks partnership with various cultural institutions."  The Amstelkerk is currently being used for office space, exhibition space, and hosting the cafe/restaurant Nel (www.stadsherstel.nl)

TOP ROW:  4TH COLUMN:  Mozes en Aäronkerk – Now Mozeshuis center for adult education and development of a more cooperative society (www.mozeshuis.nl)

2ND ROW, 1ST COLUMN:  Vondelkerk – Now owned by Stadsherstel Amsterdam, a non-profit organization designed to restore and maintain the city’s old monumental buildings.  Translated from their website:  "The goal is to give these special and
sizeable buildings a successful second life, as cultural centers among
other things.  To this end, Stadsherstel seeks partnership with various
cultural institutions."  The Vondelkerk is currently being used for office space and for conference facilities, though there also happens to be a living church community called Via Nova renting space for a weekly gathering (www.stadsherstel.nl)

2ND ROW, 2ND COLUMN:  Sint Joseph Kerk – Now used by Mountain Network as a climbing wall / training facility (www.mountain-network.eu/index.php?id=2331)

2ND ROW, 3RD COLUMN:  Nieuwekerk – Now used primarily as an exhibition space; also orgnanizes periodic concerts and occasional religious cermonies for the royal family, such as weddings, coronations, and the city’s annual Memorial Day remembrances (www.nieuwekerk.nl)

2ND ROW:  4TH COLUMN:  Nieuwe Walenkerk – Now used as office and studio space by the USSR cross-media production studio (www.ussr.nl)

3RD ROW, 1ST COLUMN:  Ronde Lutherse Kerk – Now a hotel and conference center owned by Marriot (http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/amsrd-renaissance-amsterdam-hotel)

3RD ROW, 2ND COLUMN:  Posthoornkerk – Now owned by Stadsherstel Amsterdam, a non-profit organization designed to restore and maintain the city’s old monumental buildings.  Translated from their website:  "The goal is to give these special and
sizeable buildings a successful second life, as cultural centers among
other things.  To this end, Stadsherstel seeks partnership with various
cultural institutions."  The Posthoornkerk is currently being used for office space and for conference facilities (www.stadsherstel.nl)

3RD ROW, 3RD COLUMN:  Nieuwezijds Kapel – Now the Amsterdam Dungeon, a "haunted-house" style tourist attraction; their website invites you to: "Enter the psychological whirlpool of the Amsterdam Dungeon and prepare to be overwhelmed by true stories of historical horror, spine-chilling rides and gruesome displays. Find yourself propelled into the dark ages and an era of torture, disease and death. The origins of the Grim Reaper are traced here and you are invited to discover its true meaning and brevity in the darkness of the Dungeon." (www.thedungeons.com/en/amsterdam-dungeon/index.html)

3RD ROW:  4TH COLUMN:  Oudekerk – Now owned and operated by Stichting de Oudekerk te Amsterdam (organizes exhibitions and preserves the building as a historical artifact; also just so happens to host the Oudekerk Gemeente, a protestant church community, which meets weekly — though, it should be noted, the church community is not the main attraction of the Oudekerk, as it is listed 6th on the Oudekerk website as "Erediensten," after Address, Opening Hours, Entrance Fees, Tours, and Visiting the Tower) (www.oudekerk.nl)

BOTTOM ROW, 1ST COLUMN:  Zuiderkerk – Now an office / information center for the City of Amsterdam’s Department of Zoning, Construction, and Residence (www.zuiderkerk.amsterdam.nl)

BOTTOM ROW, 2ND COLUMN:  Vrije Gemeeente (a.k.a. Paradiso) – Now a concert center / night club, well-known as the "Pop Temple of the Netherlands" (www.paradiso.nl)

BOTTOM ROW, 3RD COLUMN:  Ons Lieve Heer op Solder – Now a museum, showing the restored hidden church as it was in the 17th Century (Catholic masses are still organized for Christmas, and on Sundays between October and April — though these services are listed 4th on the museum website as "Misvieringen," after  Exhibitions, Tours, and Events) (www.opsolder.nl)

BOTTOM ROW:  4TH COLUMN:  De Duif – Now owned by Stadsherstel Amsterdam, a non-profit organization designed to restore and maintain the city’s old monumental buildings.  Translated from their website:  "The goal is to give these special and
sizeable buildings a successful second life, as cultural centers among
other things.  To this end, Stadsherstel seeks partnership with various
cultural institutions."  De Duif is primarily used for hosting concerts, conferences, and events (www.stadsherstel.nl)

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OTHER SPACES PHOTOGRAPHED (BUT NOT DISPLAYED IN ABOVE COLLAGE):

Gereformeerde Kerk De Buiten-Amstel (a.k.a. Cafe-Restaurant Bazar) – Now a hip Moroccan-inspired restaurant and club (www.bazaramsterdam.nl)

Noodkerk Christus Koning – Now used as a multi-purpose community center; uses of the space include chess clubs, children’s after-school day-care, and "Alkona" confectionary wholesale store / "Dames- Heren- en Jeugd-mode"

Schuilkerk De Hoop (in Diemen) – Now owned by Stadsherstel Amsterdam, a non-profit organization designed to restore and maintain the city’s old monumental buildings.  "Het doel is om de bijzondere grote gebouwen een succesvol tweede leven te geven, onder andere als cultuurzaal. Hiertoe zoekt Stadsherstel samenwerking met verschillende culturele instellingen."  De Hoop is primarily used for hosting conferences and events (www.stadsherstel.nl)

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If anyone knows of any other "church carcasses" which should be considered for this project, please let me know by leaving a comment or sending me an e-mail.  Thanks!

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