Image by Francesco Bonino,

How Changing Demographics of Italian Villages Have Taken Their Toll on Magnificent Churches

Photo stories on the Metropolitan Museum and Smithsonian websites this month pay homage to the beauty of Italy’s village churches—at least 1,000 of which are now abandoned and in decay.

Image by Francesco Bonino,
Image by Francesco Bonino,

“As young people leave smaller towns for urban centers where employment opportunities are more plentiful, villages are slowly fading into oblivion,” according to Jessica Stewart in an article on the Metropolitan Museum of Art website.

Dutch photographer Roman Robroek captured the unearthly beauty of these abandoned Churches.

“It might seem incredible that such stunning, artful churches are in this state of decay, but it all connects to the same issues, the lack of community and the economic desolation of an area that has long past its prime,” writes Robroek. ‘If a church, once the most important haven in the community, can become a pile of ruins, what does that say about what we hold certain today?”

The April 2022 online Smithsonian magazine travel section has a similar feature but a more optimistic perspective. It is titled, “How Italy Is Bringing Its Rustic Villages Back to Life.”

 “Until the 20th century,” writes Ferdinando Cotugno, “most Italians lived in such rural hamlets, which were often rich in history and natural beauty but short on economic opportunity and social services. When industrialization drove massive migration to the cities, thousands of borghi were left behind.”

On the other hand, he writes in the article featuring the photographs of Francesco Lastrucci, “artists, agrarian dreamers and entrepreneurs,” who are exploring new “eco-tourism ventures, draw visitors and new transplants to remote locales.“

Both articles feature stunning photos of magnificent edifices inspired by faith—just in time for Easter 2022, celebrated April 17 this year.