A church that used to serve as a spiritual center for the working class in Spain has been completely transformed to serve the interest of a very different kind of community. After being left abandoned for decades, the church in Llanera has been converted into a skating park, complete with bright shades of fresh paint.
Madrid-based artist, Okuda San Miguel, who painted the church’s walls and ceiling with his artwork, said in an interview that he believes this is the most important expression of his career. Reportedly, he was intrigued by the challenge of using a classic blank canvas –the inside of the church– which renowned artists have used throughout history to create masterpieces.
“It’s like my personal Sistine Chapel,” said the 35-year-old.
From the exterior, little differentiates the 100-year-old church in northern Spain from any other. But from the interior, the Romanesque revival structure reveals a space completely transformed: the pews have been replaced with a half pipe; prayers replaced with ollies; and peeling paint with a fresh riot of colors.
For the last five year, a local organization dedicated to skateboarding has been striving to convert this abandoned church into a skaters’ haven.
“It was pretty much in ruins when we started the project,” said Ernesto Fernández Rey. “The walls were stained, paint was peeling and there was dust everywhere.”
Built in 1912, the church in Santa Barbara was a focal meeting point for employees of a nearby munitions factory; but when the factory shut down by the end of the Spanish civil war, the church stopped attracting any crowd. The space was left unattended for decades until Fernandez Rey finally discovered it. Initially, he planned to use the available space for a business, but the country’s poor economic condition compelled him to switch plans. That is when he thought of utilizing the abandoned church to quench his thirst for skateboarding.
“It’s got really interesting architecture, with high ceilings and lots of light,” said the 36-year-old.
The idea of a unique indoor skatepark was a hit with the locals, even more so because the area receives 200 days of rain each year. Identifying his organization as Church Brigade, Fernandez Ray (along with his friends) decided to raise funds and build a ramp. As their funds increased, they used the money to expand the church into a skatepark.
Once word started to spread about Fernandez Ray’s project, San Miguel stumbled across a photo of Church Brigade skateboarding inside the church. He then approached them to ask if he could paint murals in the same space.
“I fell in love right away,” the artist said.
San Miguel took responsibility for raising funds through a crowdfunding platform as well as corporate sponsors. The completed murals, which span across the church’s vaulted walls and ceiling with a kaleidoscope of colors, were revealed to the public last month.
Fernandez Ray said that young skateboarders are still getting accustomed to the skate park's dramatic makeover.
“It’s a big surprise. But it is a really beautiful place to spend some time.”
Photo Credits: Hyperallergic