A photographer travels the world to capture abandoned churches dating back to the 17th century — take a look inside the hauntingly beautiful buildings

Summary List PlacementSEE ALSO: 27 haunting photos show the crumbling ruins of an abandoned Soviet-era spa resort once used by Joseph Stalin This abandoned 19th-century church in Italy has become overgrown with weeds and vines but much of the original architecture still stands. "Chapels and churches are among my favorite abandoned places to...


Summary List Placement

SEE ALSO: 27 haunting photos show the crumbling ruins of an abandoned Soviet-era spa resort once used by Joseph Stalin

This abandoned 19th-century church in Italy has become overgrown with weeds and vines but much of the original architecture still stands.

“Chapels and churches are among my favorite abandoned places to visit because of the secrecy of what’s going on ‘behind’ the altar,” photographer Roman Robroek told Insider. “I get to check every room and run into the most amazing things.”

Abandoned over 40 years ago, the roof completely collapsed due to weather conditions and heavy decay. However, a working 20th-century clock tower still stands nearby. 

“Citizens fear that the building will fall apart at any moment. The building is very dear to their hearts. Unfortunately, the parish doesn’t have the resources or funding to secure the building and protect it from being erased from history,” Robroek continued.

One can imagine where the pews used to be — the area is now overgrown with plants.

“Due to an earthquake and heavy rainfall, this church became very damaged and it is now on the verge of collapse,” Robroek told Insider. “The building has a late-gothic bell tower, which is an important testimony of medieval 1300s architecture. The main building is more recent and is built in baroque style.”

The altar, pews, and painted ceilings of this abandoned church still remain, seemingly frozen in time.

This church in Italy was built in the 18th century and abandoned about 70 years ago in a rather small village.

“Most of the buildings in the town also looked like they were abandoned,” Robroek said.

This 18th-century Italian church is a perfect example of the major differences Robroek found between the Italian churches he visited and other churches around Europe.

“The Italian churches I found were for example decorated with beautiful frescoes, while French churches were decorated with stucco,” he said.

Many now-abandoned churches across Europe also featured courtyards, which have become overgrown or decrepit as they go uncared for.

This once-grand courtyard is now littered with rubble.

Some abandoned churches remain in good condition, save for some dust and peeling paint, like this abandoned 17th-century monastery.

After operating for 200 years, the church closed. The building has since been used as a school and a hospital. 

While some rooms of the monastery remain in good condition, others have begun to deteriorate.

The wooden pews in this chapel have started to decompose.

The ceiling of this abandoned church in Italy has completely caved in, but the beautiful stained-glass window remained intact.

The arched ceiling may now be partially caved in, but the stone pillars remain.

This eerie abandoned church was Robroek’s favorite to explore and photograph.

“The church was located on top of a hill surrounded by the most amazing landscape — standing there in complete silence and only reachable by a heavily damaged road,” he said.

The church was originally built in the 15th century but was torn down to build a new church in the 19th century.

At the end of World War II, cracks started to appear in the church. In the ’80s, the decision was made to close it, despite the fact it had barely been used. In 2009, after activists fought to save the church with a petition to return the structure to its former glory, it was spared from demolition.

“It’s still a very long way to go. The church is located almost 900m high on a big hill and driving to it took a long while due to the bad and dangerous road,” Robroek said.

Despite being abandoned, this church still retains much of its original beauty.

The altar and artwork haven’t been tarnished by the passing of time.

Beneath the rubble and foliage, some church grounds hide artifacts and historical objects long forgotten.

One can only imagine what’s buried underneath this rubble and overgrowth.

The building of this magnificent church started in the 17th century.

The designer of the church was well known in Italy at the time.

This French church was constructed in the 19th century but closed about a hundred years later.

Initiatives to restore or save the place have not been successful, and the church has since collapsed.

Some sections of abandoned churches, like at this one in Italy, have remained totally intact after being left untouched for years.

It doesn’t look that different than it did decades ago.

This grand chapel in France remains in relatively good condition, but may soon fall victim to nature.

This was part of a college for priests built halfway through the 19th century. After the college was unable to find suitable teachers to run the school, it closed and the church was abandoned.

At the end of the 19th century this beautiful French chapel — now in restoration — was built.

“The architect promised to design a chapel in old Gothic style and lived up to that promise. The chapel is surrounded by an immense garden. Now, nature is clearly taking over,” Robroek told Insider.

Some old churches and chapels feature stained-glass windows.

Others have either lost them or have simple clear panes on all sides.

This gothic-style chapel in France is part of an old and abandoned cloister, but its beautiful painted ceiling remains just as vibrant.

The 14-century cloister only had about four rooms.

“Sadly, in the 19th century, the cloister was destroyed,” Robroek said. “However, several elements of the original cloister were later returned and were used to rebuild it based on the former layout.”

Some abandoned churches are harder to access than others, but buried treasure can make the journey worth it.

“Some of these buildings were a walk in the park, everything was open and no one was looking after them anymore. Others were harder,” says Robroek. “The hardest one was where I had to climb over a high brick wall, crawl through a tiny hole, and fight my way through the bushes while not trying to be seen by other people.”

Robroek has come across clothing, ancient books, and tools used in services while photographing these structures.

The spookiest artifact Robroek came across was a collection of bones and a skull in a looted grave.

This synagogue in Romania has lost its ceiling, and the floor is lined with rubble and remnants of the original architecture.

The floor is completely covered in debris.

This more minimalist church in Poland is strikingly different from the ornate churches in Italy or France.

The ceilings aren’t arched, like more ornate churches and cathedrals throughout Europe.

The dilapidated St. George’s church in the Czech Republic is known around the world for its creepy statues resembling ghosts.

The church has stood for hundreds of years but was officially abandoned in 1968 after the roof collapsed during a funeral.

In 2012, a local artist named Jakub Hadrava created 32 life-sized ghost statues to sit in the church’s pews.

Since then, visitors from across the world have visited the church and made donations, allowing for the historic church’s roof to be repaired.

These hauntingly beautiful churches, like this one in Belgium, may eventually be completely lost to the passage of time.

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