What happens to a sacred place when people no longer gather there to seek the divine?
A lot of things, actually.
As more people find spirituality outside of traditional church settings, some of the big, beautiful cathedrals, churches and synagogues that were once centers of community life are being repurposed into secular spaces. Their transformations are a reflection of the changes that have happened with religions in Western society.
Mainline Protestant Christian denominations, like the Anglican and Lutheran churches, once dominated the religious landscapes of both the United States and Northern Europe. But this tradition's share of the population has been declining sharply in recent decades. The Roman Catholic Church and Jewish synagogues have suffered losses as well, with attendance at religious services steadily declining.
In addition, secularism is on the rise. The number of religiously unaffiliated adults who say they rarely or seldom attend worship services has grown rapidly in America over the past decade. In both Europe and North America, the unaffiliated are expected to continuing growing.
While some of the defunct sacred buildings these denominations leave behind are shuttered and abandoned, many have found new life in unexpected ways -- from a church-turned-bar in Dublin, Ireland to a Lower East Side synagogue in New York City that has morphed into a townhouse that you can now rent on AirBnb.
Scroll down to see some of these remarkable transformations.