Photographer captures incredible shots of abandoned churches left to crumble

Roman also found ‘mummified’ bodies and skeleton remains…
Bones are scattered on the floor of this crumbling church
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A photographer has delved into the history of religious culture in Italy – with over 1,000 abandoned churches left to crumble in the country, some still home to mummified remains.

Roman Robroek, 34, from the Netherlands, began exploring abandoned buildings over a decade ago to fuel his interest in architecture, history and photography.

He has travelled across the world and has discovered the history behind buildings forgotten in time, while understanding how these structures play a vital role in the culture of these places today.

Bright blue ceiling artwork contrast the dusty flooring.
Some of the churches remain intact (Picture: Jam Press)

During his recent exploration, the photographer delved into the religious past of Italy and captured the “decline” of the church through various shots of crumbled chapels and religious buildings.

In one photo, overgrown moss and other shrubbery can be seen flooding the inside of a once busy chapel as the structure begins to crumble.

In another shot, mummified bodies can be seen among a pile of bones and skeletons.

Another haunting photo shows a derelict church, which features torn wallpaper and dusty flooring, along with broken stained-glass windows and a worn podium.

Other photos show some churches intact, with one featuring a structure of Jesus on the cross hanging above a podium, with bright stained-glass windows allowing sunlight to shine through.

Across the 100 photos, there’s destroyed historic artwork, rusted statues of important religious events and decaying chairs which would’ve once seated those overseeing ceremonies.

Roman said: “Today, these abandoned churches offer a unique glimpse into the past as a source of reflection.

Greenery and moss, along with ivy grows across the crumbled building
Other churches have been flooded with shrubbery and moss (Picture: Jam Press)

“These are the traces of the past of many communities and if we follow them, we can see where we all came from and perhaps where we’re going.”

For centuries, church buildings have been an integral part of European culture and as a result, many were erected to promote a religious way of life.

From AD 306-337, the transition of the religion from a minority into mainstream took place and marked a new era for the church.

As the roots of modern Christianity are known to date back to the Roman Empire, the abandoned churches throughout the country may seem odd.

Roman said: “Most churches were meant to represent the power through majestic artwork, tall ceilings and marvellous artefacts and other architectural styles.

“Every little town in Italy has at least a chapel – even the small town of Chianche which isn’t on most maps has two.

“As secularism becomes more prominent and chaotic generations are dying out, many churches are falling behind.

“Progressive thinking and more open-ended views became tolerable and suddenly, it was no longer dangerous to express doubt or even question the values of Christianity.

There’s 1,000 confirmed abandoned churches in Italy alone (Picture: Jam Press)

“Although this isn’t the most likely cause for the majority of abandoned churches through Italy, as there is simply a lack of resources or personnel to keep them running, leading to more of these churches becoming abandoned.”

As some of these churches are highly regarded as national treasures, some have been well-maintained in pristine condition.

However, this isn’t the case for the majority of them.

Roman said: “Others meet a rather different ending, being left in the hands of time and its relentless way of decaying things.

“Italy is a perfect example of a country that although greatly valuing its history, architecture, culture and connection with the church, still features its share of abandoned churches.

“In some cases, abandoned churches and religious buildings might not even be known outside of a specific neighbourhood.

“As time goes by, the knowledge of these places and their past history gets simply lost through time.”

There are at least 1,000 confirmed abandoned churches across Italy, but the number could be far greater.

It is estimated that there are over 20,000 churches currently in use across the country.

As most of the deserted churches are located in small ghost towns in Italy, which have been left abandoned for decades due to various reasons such as earthquakes, there is little money readily available for modernisation.

A church with decorative artwork and benches.
Roman says that many of Italy’s ‘ghost towns’ have two chapels still erect (Picture: Jam Press)

Roman added: “The historical centre [of Naples] features many buildings that simply morphed into homes from their origins as former chapels as urban expansion swallowed what was there before.

“But there is no use of allocating budgets and going the extra mile for the conversion of a church if there is no community to enjoy it or no tourism to attract.”