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Gothic Pilgrimage, visiting the great French cathedrals.

                                Grandeur of composition, nobility of silhouette, perfection of proportion, wealth of detail, infinitely...

July 5, 2012

Just passing...

A tourist from America paid a visit to a renowned Polish rabbi, Hofetz Chaim.
He was astonished to see the rabbi’s home was only a simple room filled with books, plus a table and bench.
“Rabbi,” asked the tourist, “where is your furniture?”
“Where is yours?” replied Hofetz Chaim.
“Mine?” asked the puzzled American. “But I’m only passing through.”
“So am I,” said the rabbi.

~Tales of the Hassidim.

July 2, 2012

This is Holland…

…a sales assistant tells me, as I scan bookshelves generously stocked with English as well as Dutch works. "We are not so religious. Yes, we have more mosques now - but we have also a lot of empty churches." And here's a great thing to do with such atmospheric yet dormant spaces. I'm in central Maastricht, standing in what must be one of the finest bookshops in the world. That's quite a claim. Yet who could fail to be thrilled by this extraordinary venture?

Completed in 2007 by Merkx + Girod Architecten, the Selexyz Dominicanen Bookstore is an incredible church conversion that was originally consecrated in 1294. Located between Maastricht’s two major squares (the Markt and the Vrijthof), the bookstore is run by a large Dutch chain in collaboration with the city council of Maastricht.

The location has not been used as a church for over 200 years. Before becoming a bookstore it served as bicycle storage, exam hall for students, a Christmas market and venue for various shows and events. While some may find this usage peculiar, there are actually a significant number of abandoned churches in the Netherlands, many of them hundreds of years old.

With land being a premium in the country, local governments have opted to convert and restore (just look at those ceilings!) rather than demolish these historic abandoned buildings.

The Dominican church in Maastricht strikes just the right note. Its architects deserve a blessing.