Churches, mosques, synagogues and temples are the most obvious material manifestations of religion in urban public space. They are visible to outsiders and of particular significance for the religious communities which congregate in these buildings to practise their faith. These communities, however, are constantly changing. They grow, decline, migrate, modify rituals and reinterpret beliefs. With such changes, the meanings of their places of worship shift, as do the ways in which their buildings are used.
In Amsterdam these transformations are made evident by the many conversions of church buildings that take place, for either religious or secular purposes. Dozens of churches have been transformed into flats, theatres, cultural centres, mosques and “migrant churches”. These church conversions can be reckoned among the most important changes in the material presence of religion in Amsterdam.The study of Amsterdam looks at the ways in which these converted churches are used and approached by those involved, and it investigates the perspectives, emotions and debates that processes of conversion evoke.