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Photographer Explores Abandoned Churches, Discovers Mummified Bodies

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For more than ten years, Dutch-born photographer Roman Robroek has investigated and documented the empty interiors of abandoned houses. His most recent photographic project focuses on abandoned churches and the unsettling artefacts that remain long after the congregation has dispersed.

According to Robroek, 34, these deserted churches today provide a special window into the past and a place for introspection. We can see where we all came from and possibly where we are headed if we follow these remnants of many communities’ past.

In spite of the fact that Robroek’s work has taken him all over the world, his 100-photo church series focuses on the chapels of Italy, which is home to at least 1,000 recognised abandoned churches and very possibly a great lot more that are undiscovered. Despite the fact that there are currently more than 20,000 active churches in the country, Robroek wants to convey the “collapse” of the Christian church through his photos.

There are currently around 20,000 operating churches in Italy.

Roman/Jam Press Robro Robroek specialises in taking pictures of abandoned places.

Roman Robroek/Jam Press

The artefacts he unearths in the abandoned temples also make for an intriguing tale. He has discovered a variety of items throughout his house of God-themed journeys throughout Italy, including antique podiums, broken stained glass, mummified bodies, and heaps of bones and skeletons.

He preserves a piece of the churches’ history that may otherwise be completely lost by shooting pictures of the churches after they have passed their prime.

Roman Robroek/Jam Press

Although “a lack of finances or staff to keep them functioning” is the most likely cause for the majority of the chapels Robroek shoots being abandoned, the more conceptual explanation gives his images more context.

He noted that even in their active heyday, many of the structures — as beautiful as they were — only held value for a limited, local group of people. “As time goes by, the knowledge of these locations and their prior history just gets lost through time,” he said.

In certain instances, he noted, abandoned churches and other religious structures might not even be known outside of a particular community. Italy is the ideal illustration of a nation that, although placing a high value on its history, architecture, culture, and ties to the church, nonetheless has a fair number of abandoned churches.

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