Italy’s Abandoned Churches ~ What Happens to Them?

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Small abandoned Church in Tuscany

I wrote this post nearly four years ago but thought it interesting enough to share again…

While driving through Tuscany I couldn’t help but pull off the road to snap a shot of this old abandoned church. It was small, but very ornate. As I surveyed the facade, I wondered how many abandoned churches there were in Italy. As the stronghold of the Catholic Church, it’s not surprising that Italy has thousands of churches. I read recently that it is estimated at about 26,000, but I’m unsure about the reliability of the source.

As a result of Italy’s crippled economy combined with hard times experienced by the Catholic church and a general decrease in attendance, thousands of churches are deconsecrated and sold to private buyers who then turn them into night clubs, theaters, banks and even a car repair shop.

Below is an article about a family who bought an abandoned church and converted it into their own home ~ Article from The New York Times magazine

Massimo Vitali Moves Into a 14th – Century Church

Local photographer Andrea Di Martino photographed 70 former churches. Following is a list of a few of them ~

1. Madonna della Neve church in Como ~ this church was deconsecrated in the 1950’s, sold and turned into a successful auto repair shop by the new owners.

2. St. Philomena Church ~ located in the port town of Ugento, this church is now used for court hearings.

3. Santa Lucia church in Montescaglioso ~ now occupied by sports fans. The walls are decorated with football posters and there is a Ping-Pong table in the former church.

4. Church in Salerno ~ Built in 1,000 AD, it is now the museum of a local medical school.

5. Santa Sabina church ~ completed in 1063, it has operated as a bank for the last 40 years.

6. Milan’s former Church of Santa Teresa ~ 1694, now a multi-level library.

7. Church in Viareggio ~ deconsecrated in 1977, is now a pizza place called ‘La Chiesina,’ (the church).

When a church is deconsecrated it is usually due to structural danger or because the attendance has drastically declined. These former churches sell fairly easily because of their solid condition, high ceilings and usually located in the center of town.

The Mass is Ended, an award-winning photographic work by Andrea Di Martino, displays deconsecrated churches in their new roles. Click to take a look.