Derelict churches and places of worship are becoming increasingly abundant across the world. The reasons for their abandonment are varied, from increased secularization and local population decline to changing demographics and even war. But there is no question that urban decay bestows a mysterious atmosphere upon these once welcoming structures, and urban explorers become the unlikely members of their reinvented congregations.
The Church of San Leonardo, Montevarchi, Italy
The crumbling edifice above, which appears as little more than a cow shed today, was once the Church of San Leonardo. It is reportedly one of the oldest catholic parish churches in Montevarchi, a town and commune in the province of Arezzo, Tuscany. It was likely founded as long ago as the 10th century, but was suppressed in the 18th century leading to its use as a farm building. Today it lies abandoned, barely a relic of its former incarnation.
St Mary’s Church, Clophill, UK
St Mary’s in the village of Clophill was built in the 16th century on the site of a much older church. But by Victorian times it was deemed too small and a new church was consecrated in 1848. It lingered on as a chapel for the adjacent graveyard but by 1956 most of the lead had been stolen from the roof and a decision was taken to salvage what remained for the new church. At that time the roof was reluctantly removed and the building was reduced to a shell. Left to the ravages of time, the elements and the local vandles, the building fell into ruin. More eerily though, it is rumoured to have been the location of supposed Satanic rituals and black magic during the 1960s, when graves were desecrated and bones ritually exhumed and rearranged.
St Peter’s Church, Low Toynton, UK
The United Kingdom is one of those countries with plenty of history to go round and nowhere near enough money to protect it. Hence scenes like this (above). And while some rural churches have come in for innovative reuse, others are beyond the scope of economical conversion without significant capital. St Peter’s Church in Low Toynton, Lincolnshire, has been overgrown and abandoned since 1973. The church was rebuilt in 1811 around the late Norman arch of the original structure, seating about 60 people. St Peter’s has reportedly been in private ownership since 1977, so perhaps one day we’ll find this old tabernacle lovingly restored.
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Amboy is a near-empty ghost town in California’s Mojave Desert, and the old church stands (rather lopsidedly) to prove it. With the lonely desert plain stretching to the mountains, the isolated church and the train trundling along the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, this town could symbolise many Wild West settlements that have fallen on hard times. But actually, the history of Amboy is rather colourful, from a cafe owner who would chase off long-haired diners at gunpoint, to a popular Hollywood film location. For more information, check out Route 66 Roy’s.
Abandoned Church at Taiban, New Mexico
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The old church in Taiban, an unincorporated community in New Mexico, has certainly seen better days, but probably nothing a nice coat of while paint wouldn’t sort out. That said, the fact that it was abandoned in the first place is surprising considering the heavy religious influence in rural United States. Could it be that a new church has flourished, or that faith has dwindled in this tough desert environment?
City Methodist Church, Gary, Indiana
City Methodist Church in Gary, Indiana, may be derelict but is still considered a historic structure in the 1906 town. Its architects clearly had grand plans for the church and built it to rival many of the historic churches of the late 19th to early 20th century. But like the city itself, the church has fallen into almost total ruin, with the urban decay that surrounds it captured evocatively in the images above. Check out this previous article for more information about the abandoned buildings of Gary.
As of 2004, Pierson, Florida was a town of 2,606 people according to the U.S. Census Bureau – an increase of 10 people since the 2000 census! Going by these figures, the likely increase over the last five years has probably only been enough to warrant an extra row of pews in the church above, but unfortunately it appears to have been abandoned for some time. Whether in fact it is even a church, rather than some other form of meeting place, remains in question. But it barely seems to matter anymore, unless some benevolent soul should feel the urge to renovate it soon.