Medieval Church Repurposed As Stunning Bookstore

By JP Bervoets

Medieval Church Repurposed As Stunning Modern Bookstore

Religion aside, it’s hard to overlook the beauty and architectural prowess of Europe’s historic churches and cathedrals. While some of these buildings have become major tourist attractions or continue to host parishioners, others have fallen into disuse and demand significant fees for upkeep. It’s not uncommon as a result to find churches repurposed as condos, offices, community centers, shops or even pubs. Unfortunately, some of these conversions can be more damaging to the original structure than the lack maintenance might have been.

In Maastricht, a medieval city located in the southern part of the Netherlands, architects Merkx + Girod have managed to find a way to reopen and repurpose one such church as a breathtaking bookstore without damaging or disrupting the building’s historic elements: Meet Boekhandel Dominicanen.

A Quick History

Maastricht Bookstore Boekhandel Dominicanen

In the thirteenth century, a Dominican Order based in the Netherlands constructed a Gothic-style church and monastery in the heart of the ancient city of Maastricht. In 1794, however, the church was heavily damaged during the Napoleonic invasion, and the order was forced to dissolve and leave the city. While many of the city’s churches were converted for military purposes following the invasion, the Dominican church was re-assigned as a parish church until 1805, when it too was relocated.

Since then, and with no congregation, the Dominican church has been used as a warehouse, an archive, and most recently as a parking garage for bicycles.

The Good Book(s)

Boekhandel Dominicanen Maastricht

In 2007, the church underwent a dramatic transformation that saw the under-used space turned into what has since been described as the world’s most beautiful bookstore.

Today, the 750 square meter church contains 1,200 square meters of shopping space thanks to the modern three-story stack that lets shoppers explore thousands of books while getting a close-up look at stunning seventeenth century paintings that adorn the vault ceiling. In addition to the huge collection of Dutch and English language books, the store also features a great cafe in the church ‘apse’ where the alter and choir would otherwise be located. Beyond serving up a solid cappuccino, the cafe is regularly used to host cultural activities like book-signings, lectures, debates, and concerts.

Here are a few more photos of this ‘heavenly’ bookstore, Boekhandel Dominicanen:

Maastricht Bookstore Boekhandel Dominicanen

Maastricht Bookstore Boekhandel Dominicanen

Maastricht Bookstore Boekhandel Dominicanen

Maastricht Bookstore Boekhandel Dominicanen

Boekhandel Dominicanen photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Hermann Luyken, Bert Kaufmann, and Flickr, adewale_oshineye.

JP Bervoets
JP has spent the last decade working in the not-for-profit sector and has called Canada, the Netherlands and South Africa home. He's travelled to over 30 countries and currently lives and works in Toronto, Canada. His interests include photography, cycling, playing guitar and working on Departful. JP co-founded the site in 2012.


  1. Nate 4 years ago

    Sweet post JP. Love it. Thanks!

    • JP Bervoets Author
      JP Bervoets 4 years ago

      Thanks Nate! This store absolutely blew my mind when I came across it.

  2. J_13arker 4 years ago

    davelilly in my travels I love to visit old churches. See this all the time in Europe, and starting to see it on East Coast. Sad

    • davelilly 4 years ago

      J_13arker Bittersweet? While I dig repurposing, is this revealing a (sad) decline in Xtianity or the unnecessity(?) of the church building?

      • J_13arker 4 years ago

        davelilly I guess all I can respond with is asking why was the church “building” in said article sold in the first place?

        • davelilly 4 years ago

          J_13arker I’m sorry. What did you find sad? I must have misunderstood/assumed it was b/c of the lack of it’s original intended use :-)

        • J_13arker 4 years ago

          davelilly ya, if the church was sold (aka repurposed) then it could mean 1 thing: the church died. People walking away from Christ = sad

  3. CSJaney 4 years ago

    HealingHeartJen That’s is a stunningly awesome bookstore :D

    • Dief_Highlander 4 years ago

      CSJaney HealingHeartJen Impressive. All we’ve got here is a bookstore inside an old movie house.

      • HealingHeartJen 4 years ago

        Dief_Highlander CSJaney Oh wow! Love that too! I love anything that’s been restored like that!

    • HealingHeartJen 4 years ago

      CSJaney Agreed, dear little friend! #LetUsRunAway :)

  4. Miri_Hercruz 4 years ago

    casadelaciudad yo quiero!!!!! pero tenerla en mi casa!!!

  5. meghannels 4 years ago

    ABDOpublishing Oh! How cool! I have been there and agree it is beautiful. The book selection was also fantastic – many English titles!

    • ABDOpublishing 4 years ago

      meghannels No way! That’s awesome! There is a certain comfort that comes with finding English titles in foreign bookstores.


  1. […] the opposite side of the spectrum, some people converted a church into a library in the Netherlands, which not only repurposes beautiful architecture into a public space, it encourages people to once […]

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