When Christianity fades, it doesn’t just leave empty pews behind. With each church that shuts, the statues, crucifixes, chalices, paintings or vestments that were part of regular Sunday services suddenly have no liturgical home.
In the Netherlands, where faith has faded more dramatically than in many other parts of Europe, two churches close down on average every week. The sacred art left over is piling up in cellars and storerooms around the country.
Some congregations elsewhere have the opposite problem. New Catholic and Protestant churches are springing up in Latin America, Africa and Asia, and pastors in eastern Europe are seeking to refurbish churches used for decades as warehouses or factories.