The stunning Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen – can be found in Maastricht, the Netherlands. Managed by the former Boekhandels Groep Nederland, this 700-year-old former church has featured prominently in round-ups and features of the most beautiful bookshops in the world.
The original Dominican church was built in 1294, around eighty years after Saint Dominic formed the Order of Preachers. Its closure is generally credited to French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte.
His army closed the ornate stone building during the 1794 invasion, despite Napoleon’s respect for the Catholic religion’s charisma and ability to promote social order. And while the church didn’t fall into ruin, it nevertheless spent some of the next two centuries abandoned and neglected.
Churches aren’t typically known for providing effective storage solutions, but this one’s well-stocked past includes a stint as a warehouse, an archive and a very ornate stone bicycle shed.
If that’s not impressive enough, the 13th century structure now houses a three storey bookshelf complete with walkways, staircases and elevators. The current arrangement was designed by Amsterdam-based architecture firm Merkx+Girod who won the Lensvelt de Architect Interior Prize in 2007 for their work.
Merkx+Girod chose modern black steel shelving and fashionable furniture (including a cross-shaped reading table) to compliment the church’s renovated vaulted ceilings, ornate arches and decorative frescoes. The additional shelving structure takes the shop floor from around 750 square meters to 1,200, allowing space for a cafe in the choir.
Advertisements can often be seen hanging from Boekhandel Dominicanen’s grand stone pillars, as religious banners would once have done, and lighting has been strategically placed almost candle-like around this truly spectacular bookshop. (Explore more converted chapels and churches here.)