Gallery: Ancient Dominican Church Renovated into Modern Bookstore


Dating back to the 13th century, the structure was a Dominican church until Maastricht was invaded by Napoleon in 1794 and the group was forced out of the country. Since that point it has been briefly used as a parish, then a warehouse, then an archive, then a giant parking lot for bicycles (not such a terrible idea) and finally made over into a bookstore.

Led by architecture firm Merkx + Girod, the new installations are highlighted by a towering, three-storey black steel book stack stretching up to the stone vaults. The highest shelves are reachable by lift or by a set of stairs within the sleek, well-made stack. The views provided from the top shelf along the nave of the church are nothing short of uplifting.

At the back of the church customers and visitors can sit and admire the beautifully renovated 14th century ceiling frescoes, or chat over a cup of coffee in the café situated in the former choir. In a bit of humor the bookstore also installed a cross-shaped reading table where anyone can sit and flip through the magazines and newspapers kept in the slats of the table. So far the design has won the Lensvelt de Architect Interior Prize, and in 2008 The Guardian called it the
“best bookstore in the world”.

Selexyz Dominicanen belongs to the popular Selexyz chain and maintains a wide selection of books across all subjects, even boasting a sizeable collection of books in English. As more and more churches are being abandoned due to redundancy, maybe this is something for Barnes and Noble to think about…

+ Merkx + Girod

Via Crossroads Magazine


or your inhabitat account below


  1. Pish May 19, 2014 at 6:25 am

    Great job, Merkx + Girod! A perfect balance of old meets the new. We’ve collected a few more similar church renovation projects in a video (church repurposed into a gym, playground, houses, etc.). Watch here if interested:

  2. ebustin October 8, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    That church was built when Maastricht was part of the episcopal principality of Liège, (in Belgium -30 km South of Maastricht) and it was “decommissioned” in 1794 – but, at least, it survived (unlike Liège’s St.Lambert cathedral, which was torn down and never rebuilt.

    For the Maastricht church to be used as a bookstore was an interesting idea (and probably a better use of the structure than having it serve as a stable, a grain store or -as happened to some admittedly smaller churches I have seen in France, Italy or Spain- as an auto repair shop or as a pinball alley…

    And (for Chris’ benefit), the Dutch economy is not “collapsing” – I am not so sure about Britain (or the US)…

  3. Corn Man March 4, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Chris you need to be nutured. Its done. Get over it.

  4. jennc February 21, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    I love this idea. If a beautiful piece of architecture is not being used anymore, its great to give it a new purpose. And the bookstore is more likely to keep the site in good condition. The bike parking looked like a lot of fun, but I can see how quickly the structure could get damaged.

  5. chris f February 20, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    this is an abomination to history. it adds nothing and only takes from the austerity and majesty of the place. it is shameful. i’m aware that vendor fairs were common inside churches in the middle ages, but to install a gigantic black metal structure right in the middle is just tragic (and the rock gym is even worse!). are europeans resentful of their past? i don’t get it. and on top of it, who goes to bookstores anyway!? no wonder their economies are collapsing (except for Germany and Britain, and Norway who is funded by oil).

  6. Amazing Hanging Garden ... October 20, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    […] We are simply awe-struck by Shinji Turner-Yamamoto’s Hanging Garden sculpture, which was recently installed in the abandoned Holy Cross Church of Cincinnati. The organic artwork consists of a living tree supported by an inverted, uprooted dead tree, delicately suspended in a deserted worship space. […]

  7. 6 Absolutely Heavenly G... August 24, 2010 at 10:09 am

    […] Ancient Church Turned Modern Bookstore […]

  8. kimmi.bean October 22, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    i think that in certain instances reusing old buildings for new purposes can be good but i dont think that applies here.
    Its clearly a magnificent gothic style cathedral. Its beautiful as is and placing a ton of books in the middle of a cathedral nave is really not a way to worship the architecture at all. any modernisation of a building from a former era should compliment the building in such a way that the authenticity and era in which it was created is shown and experienced.
    Yeah, certain views of the books can look great but the way in which they have designed the space entirely takes away from the originality of the cathedral itself.
    They should compliment eachother, exaggerate the beauty of one another. Instead here you see the new design entirely over powering the original to a point where it is lost – what a pity.

  9. coutureglassdotcom October 16, 2009 at 10:44 am

    WOW! What a breathtaking space!

  10. Camerin October 9, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    This is truly a magnificent place. I went there frequently while studying in Maastricht. The city also has a very high end hotel that utilizes an ancient church.

  11. likeyougiveadamn October 7, 2009 at 9:11 am

    Really beautiful pictures. It’s always great to see architechture that is sensitive to the original build. I blogged your post here!

  12. Uffington October 5, 2009 at 7:13 am

    I worship here: – A 15th Century Church in Bristol (UK) that has been converted into an indoor climbing centre.

  13. Jeremy October 1, 2009 at 10:09 am

    magnificent. I’d worship there.

  14. September 24, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    A great project, well worth covering. This was also the cover story in ArchitectureWeek last week:

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
Federated Media Publishing - Home