The research in Amsterdam is carried out by Dr. Daan Beekers in cooperation with Professor Birgit Meyer (both from Utrecht University). It focuses on the conversion of church buildings in this city, a widespread phenomenon that entails the re-use of church buildings for either secular or religious purposes.
Throughout the Netherlands, an average of two churches close down every week. In Amsterdam, dozens of church buildings have been converted into, among other things, apartment buildings, theaters, cultural centers, mosques and ‘migrant churches’. These transformations mark one of the most important changes in the material presence of religion in Amsterdam and elsewhere in the Netherlands, providing a sharply focused lens on today’s (post-)secular, pluralist society.
The focus in this project is on three sites located in the western part of Amsterdam:
- Fatih mosque: a Turkish-Dutch mosque housed in a former Jesuit church on the Rozengracht in the city center.
- Maranatha ministries: a Pentecostal church located in a former Reformed church in the neighborhood ‘De Baarsjes’.
- Chassé Dance Studios: a complex of dance studios, dance school, hotel and café housed in a former Roman Catholic church, also in ‘De Baarsjes’.
The study looks at the ways in which these buildings are used and approached by the actors involved and it investigates the perspectives, emotions and debates that the processes of conversion evoke. It pays particular attention to 1) issues of visibility and invisibility in relation to political claims and contestation, 2) the histories of the buildings, the memories associated with them and the material remainders of their previous use and 3) the social and religious geographies in which these sites are embedded.
By focusing on these cases of church conversion, this project sheds light on questions of religious presence, absence and encounter in Amsterdam, in relation to the city’s particular histories of Reformation, clandestine (‘hidden’) churches, Catholic emancipation, pillarization, immigration, ‘unchurching’ and, more recently, the heritagization of Christianity.