A friend of mine is spending the year in Paris, and so, has been stoking my jealousy by reminding me how much literature and how many literary landmarks abound across the European continent. Most recently, she told me about Selexyz Dominicanen, a 13th century gothic church that has been converted into a bookstore, located in Maastricht, Netherlands. The store opened in 2006. Designed by architects Merkx + Girod, the converted Dominican church received the Lensvelt de Architect Interior Prize 2007.
While always a monument in its own right, this building is now a monument to literature. The entire conversion and restoration process is reflective of what writers do every day: we see the old things, old stories, forgotten buildings, and broken pieces. We dust them off, clean them up with language, and give them back to the world as something new, hopefully while maintaining their integrity.
This building has a structure and a past. It tells a story in the restored frescos on the ceiling, and the tombs beneath patrons’ feet. The building itself does what great literature should do, and what all writers should hope to do – tell a story that lasts through the ages. I take comfort in this type of change, when I know that so much of my own life is bound to change forever within a few months. For a writer, it is comforting to see a place where parishioners have been replaced by patrons, and one book has been replaced by many, but this is still a place where the written word is being celebrated and worshiped. I cannot think of a more perfect, beautiful repurposing for a church.
(Photos courtesy of Crossroads Magazine)