I am not religious – neither baptized, nor ever believed in any sort of higher being. But, I have to admit that I absolutely love the edifices religions have brought about: namely Churches, synagogues, mosques and more. They simply belong to our tradition and carry thousands of year old memories. Exactly this is the sentiment I experience every time I enter a Church. But then again, how often does one visit a Church? Due to reasons of curiosity I attended a Christmas ceremony a couple of times throughout adolescence, or attended choir performances (rather because a friend performed). The images of these visits are still highly vivid in my memory. Yet, my visits did not exceed to more than once a year, except for excursions to (sometimes forced) Churches while traveling.
When moving to Maastricht, whilst my daily excursions intending to show off my student city to my occurring visitors, I fell in love with the slightly different usage of churches here. Maastricht, located in Limburg has always been a Catholic city, and therefore inhibits 48 Churches. The idea behind this high number was to offer every citizen the opportunity to enjoy a different mass every Sunday. Well, how pleasant! Today, with a decreased number of Church attendees, most buildings are barely in their original state. They are used for other purposes in a plethora of ways. You may enjoy a coffee in a Church on the Onze-Lieve-Vrouweplein, or continue sauntering to the beautiful bookstore next to the Vrijthof. Herein, a magical flair roams the atmosphere. One gets lost in the search for books whilst relishing the beautiful surrounding of the Church. Here, you may also enjoy a coffee or cake on the altar overlooking the vivid walking about and browsing of all the visitors. I intentionally used the word visitor. Indeed, I do not seem like a customer, but more a visitor of this great establishment. Important to note, is that all book shelves, everything is removable at any point in time, particularly in emergency situations, to be able to use the Church for shelter purposes.
Further Churches have been reinvented and are currently used for other purposes: University lectures are offered at the beautiful monastery close to the National Historic Museum. One may also dine and spend the night at the famous Kruisheren Hotel. This hotel finds itself in a 15th Century monastery and Gothic Church which has been renovated and hereby managed to combine modern design with late-medieval architecture. A feast for the eyes. Here as well, everything can be removed in an instance and is not connected to the original fragments of the Church.O.S.
I feel urged to advocate this type of usage of Churches. This way, these institutions may be appreciated and enjoyed at various levels and may serve for a wider range of visitors. Particularly through my experiences and visits at the lovely churches in Maastricht, I learned my admiration for the architecture and atmosphere of these institutions and highly support this type of use and enjoyment!
Kasia Skowron – made by KATE