Markets in everything

by on September 9, 2011 at 4:46 am in Religion | Permalink

An unprecedented number of church interiors, liturgical artefacts and period furnishings are for sale in the US while similar material is disappearing in Europe. Many of the objects come from churches that are closing due to declining memberships, an aging population and a shortage of new priests.

Henninger’s, a Cleveland store specialising in religious goods, is currently selling the contents of six early 20th-century churches for Roman Catholic dioceses. Mark Cousineau, the manager of Henninger’s, says these closures are “a sensitive subject”.

“There is an enormous glut of vintage pieces on the market and prices are falling,” said Annie Dixon, owner of the Dixon Studio in Staunton, Virginia, which specialises in liturgical design and restoration.

“In the past eight years, the amount of material we are getting has risen 40% with prices going down,” said Don Riggott of D.C. Riggott Architectural & Liturgical Artifacts in Afton, Minnesota. “Eight years ago, a church wanted 12 Munich stained-glass windows dating from 1860 to 1920 and there was only a set or two around in the country,” said Riggott. They sold for $200,000. “Now there are 20 sets but prices have dropped to $60,000,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Europe, church materials are being repurposed for domestic use. “Clients are turning pulpits into kitchen islands,” said Kate Jerrold, the managing director of Bristol-based Robert Mills Ltd. Pulpits sell for £800 to £4,000. Two years ago, they had double that inventory. “Styles change and the recession has had an impact,” said Paul Nash, the company’s manager.

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1 londenio September 9, 2011 at 5:53 am

Two good news: (1) markets make everyone better off and (2) religion is becoming less important than it used to be.

2 liberalarts September 9, 2011 at 7:17 am

Even ten years ago religious architectural salvage was a steal relative to secular salvage. I was building a playhouse in the backyard of our victorian house and decided to put a salvaged stained glass window in it, so I spent a lot of time on ebay looking at and bidding for a window. I noticed then that a person could get much fancier stained glass from churches than from secular buildings, and the more explicit the symbols, the lower the price. People apparently don’t want a picture of saint Paul or the like overseeing their cocktail hour in their home sun room.

3 techreseller September 9, 2011 at 10:20 am

Gotta agree with Londenio. More effort towards life and productivity as it exists on this planet, less effort towards fantasies.

4 Andy R September 9, 2011 at 11:23 am

An entirely understandable remark if one has a priori limited oneself to the material side of life. It is a rather truncated view of mankind but hey….markets in everything.

5 Albert Ling September 9, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Secularism is no more “material” than Religion. Just because you don’t believe in things based on no evidence doesn’t imply you don’t care about love, family, health, community, etc. and only care about comfort and possessions!

Atheists mostly have the same values as religious people. We humans all want the same stuff, we just choose different means of achieving it. The followers of Bin Laden probably valued their families, their community, status, and even their health (in their minds they’d have great health in the afterlife).

I for one fancy the prospect of buying a 19th century vintage pulpit for a future kitchen on the cheap, as a symbol of the triumph of reason over superstition.

6 Reg September 9, 2011 at 11:45 am

Religious efforts have been redirected to the mental health treatment and pharmaceuticals, self-help programs, and alternative medicine. It’s debatable whether that’s a net gain. It’s certainly a loser for those valuing aesthetics.

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