Maastricht is a nice old town in the south of The Netherlands, pretty close to where I grew up. One of its churches, the 13th-century Dominicanenkerk (Dominican Church) was converted to a bookstore around 2006. It is likely the most beautiful bookshop in the world and I visit it whenever possible. During my first visit, I had my camera and Tokina 12-24 wide-angle lens with me. The light from outside was pretty good, allowing me to take some decent pictures of the building. The second time around a fast 85mm lens was in my bag, enabling a different type of photography. Enjoy!
The massive doors of the church are clad with corroded metal, with the word ‘Books’ on them in many languages. It is a nice touch that this is even done in the local dialect. There were always too many people around to take a decent picture of the entrance so I made a close-up of the English term.
Here is the view when you enter the store and unashamedly climb on top of the furniture, as I did. The floor space of the cathedral didn’t offer enough room for all of the books so the architects, Merkx+Girod, decided to add a multistory steel book stack in the central nave. Popular books are on the ground floor, more specialized literature is on the upper levels.
The tiles on the floor that people are walking on are tombstones. In the past priests and bishops were often buried in their church.
Look at the pattern of the railing on the first and second floor. I shot the books through the perforated plate, which created the abstract pattern below.
In this section of the store, they sell books about art. I’ve noticed during recent visits that a growing number of these books are unusual, either in finishing or content-wise. There is, for instance, an increase in the number of over-sized or very hefty books. Some of them, such as atlases, have elaborate fold-outs. During my previous visit, the shop was selling a facsimile of a 17th-century book on typography. I guess publishers have realized that regular novels can easily be published in electronic form but that people will still buy printed books for which it is impossible to create a compelling digital alternative.
Walking around I noticed a moiré pattern caused by the interference between two of the steel grills used for the handrails.
When you walk to the end of the aisle, you get an impressive view of the cafe and the corner where children’s books are sold.
Note how the reading table in the cafe is shaped like a cross – a nice touch by the designers. The gaps that run through the middle of the table hold magazines and newspapers. I have never had a coffee or cappuccino here – there simply isn’t time with so many books to look at.
Making blurry pictures on purpose can be fun. Here is one of the visitors on that floor checking out a book.
The doll on the picture below is called Nijntje, a creation by the Dutch illustrator Dick Bruna. Thanks to Wikipedia I now know that the cute little rabbit is called Miffy in English-speaking countries. When I noticed the little boy sitting next to Miffy wearing a t-shirt in matching color, I took a quick snapshot and hurried downstairs to take a close-up. Unfortunately, the toddler was already gone by the time I got there. The shot below is a small crop and not the best quality but I hope you still like it.
Thanks for watching! If you want to know or see more: Crossroadsmag has two fascinating blog entries about this refurbished church, one on its history and one about the opening of the store. If you just want to look at more pictures, visit this Flickr list.