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Lost in Time: Abandoned Churches


France, Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, 13th-19th century

I often look at an abandoned home or business and wonder what it was like when people lived or shopped there. Jonglez Publishing has an entire series dedicated to these mysteries created by talented writers and photographers.

Church cover

The latest in the series is "Abandoned Churches, Unclaimed Places of Worship," a haunting look at places of worship left by their congregations. Was it the fact these magnificent structures dedicated to God were too expensive to maintain? Did the community disperse for some unknown reason? Or perhaps attendance simply faded away in time.

Church 1Thirteenth-century chapel, Piedmont region, Italy

Between 2012 and 2019, Francis Meslet photographed hundreds of places of worship across Europe. The book is filled with pictures and narratives and chronicles the places of worship now left to the elements.

Church 2France, Bourgogne-Franche-Comte region, 13th to 19th centuries

Francis captures what is and opens the imagination to what was. The days of glorious choirs, children fidgeting in the pews, and men of God pouring out their doctrine to those gathered, in many cases, for centuries.

Church 4Namur Province, Belgium, 19th-century chapel

Francis traveled throughout Europe searching for places that have fallen into disuse―religious buildings where time has stood still since their doors were closed for the last time.

Church 7France, Centre-Val de Loire, 19th-century Catholic school and chapel

Church 6Occitanie region of France, 15th through 19th century cloister

His photography illustrates the beauty that is still in these abandoned structures: mosaics, statues, sculptures, paintings, grand vaulted ceilings. Builders used only the best materials including marble and granite in their construction.

Church 5Belgium, Namur Province, 19th-century chapel

But there is also rubble. Plants grow in through broken stained glass windows, fragments of destroyed crypts, in some cases, broken furniture is strewn along the corridors framed by might pillars. But, in each chapter featuring a different church, Francis photographs the remaining beauty. And there is beauty in these long-forgotten churches.

Church 8Italy, Liguria region, 19th-century chapel and crypt

Other TravelGumbo 'abandoned' book reviews: "Abandoned America," "Abandoned Asylums," "After the Final Curtain," and "Abandoned Italy." The books are available from Jonglez Publishing and

Photos courtesy of Jonglez Publishing.


Images (9)
  • Church 1
  • Church 2
  • church 3
  • Church 4
  • Church 5
  • Church 6
  • Church 7
  • Church 8
  • Church cover

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