architecture

Buying a church: a second life for religious heritage?

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Buying religious property, especially a church that has been restored or needs to be converted to live in it, is a trend that has been emerging for several years due to the increase in the number of clerical properties being offered for sale. While this market has traditionally been difficult with properties remaining on the market for a long time, the Espaces Atypiques real estate network has noticed that the brakes are gradually being lifted and that more and more people are embarking on the adventure.
 
Sccording to the Observatoire du Patrimoine Religieux, France is said to have about 90,000 church properties, 95 of them % Catholic. And the State finds itself obliged to sell certain religious properties, unable to meet the cost of the work to be carried out for their maintenance or restoration. Thus, each year, between 10 or 20 churches are put up for sale. This figure is expected to continue to rise because, according to the forecasts of the Observatory5 to 10 % of the identified buildings will be sold, destroyed or abandoned by 2030.
This craze has been confirmed with an increase in sales and purchases of religious buildings: chapels, presbyteries, priories and more particularly churches, which are often reborn in restaurants, coworking areas, sports halls or museums, but are also of interest to more and more private individuals who are passionate about them. The site of the Observatory of Religious Heritage also offers on their site website a list of properties for sale, even if this body is neither a real estate agency nor a real estate intermediary, and simply lists these sales to analyse the phenomenon.
 
From a legal point of view, it is of course perfectly possible to live in a church which, once disused from worship, becomes, in the eyes of the clergy and administration, an "ordinary" building. However, no matter how attractive it may be, it is not always simple, as there are many constraints on the new owner. First of all, those linked to a possible classification as a Historic Monument, which limits the development of these buildings as comfortable residences. Secondly, their architecture has a strong impact on their transformation, especially for an owner who is concerned about preserving the soul of his "home", for example by respecting the entire nave of a church.
In spite of these various obstacles, such as costly work, difficulties in arranging or heating these places with non-standard dimensions, more and more people are trying the adventure. Alone or with the help of architects, they give new life to these places to make a giant loft, a family home or several dwellings, while respecting their initial soul.
 
According to one study by the network Atypical Spaces in 2017, the "coup de coeur" is undoubtedly the primary motivation for buying 33% of unusual locations. The typical profile is that buyers use their property as their main residence at 80% and are generally already owners. Their average age is 43 and 40% are single. Of intellectual or executive profession, they are often focused on architecture, decoration, design and love to travel. A buyer of an atypical property is looking for a home that belongs only to him, corresponds to his image and in which he can fulfill himself fully. People who are looking for a different habitat, which resembles them by its originality, its history, its soul. People who follow a certain Art of Life that permeates all aspects of their daily life... a place to live in mind.
 

Raw places, ready for transformation

Essentially made up of a single room, a church allows you to benefit from a raw space to carry out the work necessary for a transformation into housing. Spacious, they have very high ceilings, allowing for the possible addition of an extra floor.
 
Church of Latresne (33)
 
Proof of this growing interest: thedesecrated church of Latresne near Bordeaux was sold in less than two weeks by the Espaces Atypiques real estate network. Never before seen on this type of real estate market! Properties of this type traditionally remain for sale for many months and years. A property bought by an enthusiast who immediately fell in love with the place. A building permit had been accepted to transform the church into an incredible loft with extraordinary dimensions (900m2!) thanks to its ceiling height of over 13m, including an interior garden and openings in the roof to create patios and terraces.
 
Church in Angers (49)
 
Another example is a ancient church dating from the 19th century, in Angers (49) which was transformed into a loft: nestled in a church, this duplex has been completely rehabilitated while retaining the inspirations of the time, such as the stained glass windows and colonnades.
 
 
The main living room of 60 m² takes place in the old nave. This place illuminated by large bay windows offers a superb volume.
 
Convent in Dijon (21)
 
Or that former convent built in 1600, rehabilitated as a loft in Dijon (21) in 2014, with a surface area of 400m2. Access to this timeless "jewel" is via a private courtyard with a parking space and a shaded terrace.
 
 
The combination of the old exposed stone arcades and the very contemporary metal structure give this place an extraordinary character.
 
But it's not just the clergy who put their goods up for sale. Town halls also sell their presbyteries. The management of the places of worship and their maintenance by the diocese or the communes thus seems difficult. Laurent Poichotte, bursar of the diocese of the Aisne, is optimistic: "We have to be optimistic. The Church's real estate patrimony is adapted to the practices of Christians. It is important that the distribution of property evolves with the number of practitioners and believers in a territory. " (Source : newspress.fr)
 
Saint Nicholas Church in Kyloe, North-East England
 
Another example is the Church of St. Nicholas in England. Built in the 1790s, it was abandoned in the 1980s and remained in poor condition for years. Bought by a British couple, it was transformed into a particularly spacious three-storey dwelling. (Source : demotivateur.fr)
 
The trend is internationalin a world that is becoming secularized. You don't need to be a believer to be interested in a church, a chapel, etc. These monuments have an identity value and form a heritage to be safeguarded at a time when communes or states are crying out for money.
A second life for religious heritage? This trend of buying atypical spaces will continue to grow in the coming years. Will it contribute to the preservation of monuments that bear witness to a country's history?
 
 
Header photo : Large loft in an old chapel in Nantes (44)

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