Empty Spanish church transformed into ‘Sistine chapel’ of skateboarding

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A group of skateboard fanatics and a Madrid street artist convert abandoned church into mural-covered skatepark

From the outside, there is little that recognise this 100 -year-old church in the northern Spanish town of Llanera from any other.

But step inside the Romanesque revival structure and youll find a space transformed: where there were pews there is now a half tube; prayers have given route to ollies and peeling paint has been replaced with a riot of colour.

For the past five years a local association dedicated to skateboarding has been working to convert this abandoned church into a skatepark.

Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel poses for a painting at Santa Barbara church near Oviedo, in Asturias, Spain. Photograph: Jl Cereijido/ EPA

It was pretty much in ruins when we started the project, said Ernesto FernA! ndez Rey. The walls were stained, paint was peeling and there was dust everywhere.

Built in 1912, the church of Santa Barbara was once a focal point for construction workers at a nearby munitions factory. But when the factory shut its doors at the end of the Spanish civil war, the church fell into disuse.

The space had been abandoned for decades when FernA! ndez Rey went across it. Initially interested in using the space to open a business, the countrys economic crisis forced him to switch gears. He decided instead to use it to feed his love of skateboarding. Its get real interesting architecture, with high ceilings and lots of light, said the 36 -year-old.

The prospect of an indoor skatepark was a hit, particularly given that the area receives some 200 days of rain a year. Photograph: Danny Leon/ Red Bull Media

The prospect of a one-of-a-kind indoor skatepark was a hit, particularly given that the area receives 200 days of rain a year. Calling themselves the Church Brigade, FernA! ndez Rey and his friends formed an association to collect money and build a ramp. As their monies grew, they poured the proceeds into expanding the skatepark.

Word soon began to spread about the project. After the Madrid street artist Okuda San Miguel stumbled across a photo online indicating the group skateboarding in the church, he approached them be interested to know whether he could paint murals in the space. I fell in love right away, the artist said in a video interview about the project.

San Miguel took care of raising funding for the project, setting up a crowdfunding space and recruiting corporate sponsors. Its like my own personal Sistine chapel, he said.

The finished murals, which incorporates the churchs vaulted ceilings and walls with a kaleidoscope of colorful geometric patterns, were uncovered this month.

FernA! ndez Rey said the skateboarders were still getting used to the dramatic makeover. Its a big astonish. But it is a really beautiful place to expend some time.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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