Of the nine churches that the Eindhoven parishes planned to reallocate in 2011, only four now have a new function. Four are still empty.
For the Heilig Hart church on Ploegstraat, there are plans for a new use, but these are meeting with objections from the neighbourhood. A judge must give a decisive answer. “Heritage just stands there, decaying”.
The pounding and rumbling on the treadmills echoes just a bit louder than in an ordinary gym. The weights also thump louder when they unexpectedly hit the ground. In SportCity on Sint Gerardusplein in Stratum, people are working hard on a divine body. Since the end of 2018, the former Gerardus church is a gym.
This was preceded by a process of many years. In 2013, the church became vacant and interested parties could submit a plan for its reuse. A group of local residents proposed to rent half of the church to organise small events in it. However, SportCity offered to rent the whole building, which was more financially attractive to the parish.
Subsequently, the renovation did not go off without a hitch. In early 2018, heritage watchdog Van Abbestichting (Henri van Abbe foundation) complained to the municipality that the church had been demolished without a permit. As a result, the renovation was temporarily halted. The gym eventually opened a year later than planned.
Catholic churches cut in half
It is an example of how difficult it is to give churches in the city a new purpose. When the Eindhoven parishes of St. Joris and St. Petrus announced in 2011 that they were withdrawing ten of the nineteen churches in the city from worship, the initial response was one of shock. Shortly afterwards, that number was reduced to nine, to leave out the Catharina church, which is owned by the municipality. For these nine churches, the church administrators had to find a new use.
Many vacant properties
Eleven years after the redevelopment plans, only half of the intended churches have been redeveloped. The other half are empty. The Heilige Mattheüs church in Woensel, for example, was withdrawn from worship in 2013. It is still unclear what will happen to it. The same applies to the Onze Lieve Vrouw van Lourdes church on Vlokhovenseweg. This church has been empty since 2013, which attracted squatters in 2018. The nearby girls’ school, once part of the church complex, has meanwhile been converted into a residential complex. The Theresia church and the St. Jans church have also been empty for years.
Neighbourhood residents who are frustrated by the conversion, investors who are not interested in renovating a church because of the high costs, and all sorts of requirements that are imposed when something is done with religious heritage. There are various reasons why the reallocation of church buildings in the city is not going smoothly. The parishes recognise the problems. “The credit crisis, corona and now inflation. And there are all sorts of requirements that apply to monuments. It scares off investors”, Nico van Dongen of Sint Joris parish says. According to Van Dongen and also the Van Abbe Stichting, the municipality should therefore take more control, even though it is not a property owner. “Nowadays, heritage in the city sometimes just stands there, decaying. That cannot be allowed”, Stephan van der Horst of the Van Abbe Stichting says.
List of churches
Meanwhile, in line with the plans, there are ten Catholic churches left in Eindhoven, divided over two parishes. The St. Petrus parish in Eindhoven-Noord still has the St. Petruskerk, the St. Antonius Abbot church, the St. Thomas church and the Heilig Hart chapel. The Verrijzenis (resurrection) church in Achtste Barrier is now in use as a reformed church.
Since the merger in 2012, the parish of St. Joris in Eindhoven-Zuid still has six churches in use: St. Martins church, St. Lambertus church, St. Trudo church, St. Catharina church, St. Joris church and Pius X church. Five St. Joris churches have been withdrawn from worship since 2011. Three of these have been redesignated and long-term leased. These are the Gerardus church (Sportcity), the Antonius van Padua church (former Oosterkerk) and the Heilig Hart church (Jump XL trampoline centre).
Here you can read more about where it goes wrong with the reallocation of churches in the city.
Translated by: Bob