French photographer Francis Meslet has been documenting abandoned churches, chapels and priories across Europe for almost a decade.
Striking images of dilapidated pipe organs, overgrown cloisters, long-empty pews and sunlight pouring into the empty interiors of abandoned churches have been beautifully captured in his new book, “Abandoned Churches: Unclaimed Places of Worship”.
The book contains images of churches from France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Portugal.
The active role that religion once played in Europe has declined and the numerous abandoned churches in various stages of decay stand as silent evidence.
Many of these centuries-old structures are now being redeveloped into residential or commercial properties.
“I am interested in the hold of passing time on architecture — how a building tries to survive abandonment, inclement weather and time,” a report quoted Meslet as saying.
Meslet, who has a sharp eye for structural symmetry, captured images of churches built in the gothic style to the neoclassical type.
The painted walls in churches that have been abandoned recently still look vibrant with seats neatly arranged for worshippers who may soon arrive.
“Churches are very special in the history of architecture and the history of men,” Meslet said.
“Sometimes a recently abandoned building deteriorates quickly because of water seeping into the roof,” he said.
Visitors may be surprised by the sheer beauty of the vegetation that grows inside it.
The majority of the abandoned churches have also managed to retain their splendour and still have undamaged statues, stained-glass windows and ornate altars.
Whether urbanization leads to less attendance in a village church or an old chapel ravished by time, lack of funds is the prime reason behind the closure of most churches.
“I have seen the growing number of religious buildings in decline all over Europe, which brings to mind the question on what has happened to faith, to religion and to our societies. This is the reason why I decided to work on this project,” Meslet said.