Dennis Toth is currently transforming the church, Örja kyrka outside Landskrona in the south of Sweden, into a 350 square metre private home for his family of seven.
“All the paperwork is basically done, now it’s time to start the renovation. I wanted to make sure I had everything planned out before I started the work,” Toth tells The Local.
It was after seeing an article about the church in local newspaper Helsingborgs Dagblad that Dennis Toth contacted the Church of Sweden to ask about buying the building after hearing that it was on the verge of being destroyed.
Officials immediately organized a meeting with him to show the building. Toth says he instantly decided to buy the church, which was built in 19th century.
The price? One Swedish krona (around 0,12$).
“They would rather give it to me than demolish it, they said,” he explains.
He says he wants to keep as much as possible of the old decor in his new home. The pulpit will become a bar and the church tower a terrace, for example.
The 35-year-old says the churchyard will become a public memorial.
The purchase and current renovation have already captured attention in Swedish media, and his story is spreading fast on social media.
“It’s quite exceptional in Sweden to transform churches into private houses, I guess that’s why everybody’s reacting. It’s far more common in countries like the UK and Germany.”
The attention doesn’t seem to disturb Dennis Toth, who has been involved in the building industry his whole working life and will carry out the renovations himself.
“I like the attention this gets, as long as it’s positive,” he says.
How much the work will cost is still unclear. The Church of Sweden estimated that it would cost around 17 million Swedish kronor ($2,053,760) to make the church inhabitable. The building has not been used since the mid-1990s.
“I don’t know what the exact total cost will be yet, I’d like to keep it a secret. Everything’s about money nowadays,” says Toth.
The Church of Sweden, which formally held the position as state church up until 2000, owns around 3,400 church buildings in the country, a number which is reducing.
More and more churches are being sold or demolished, as a consequence of a stretched economy and the dropping number of members.
The church had around 6,000,000 members last year. But it loses around one percent every year, according to its own statistics.
Article written by The Local's intern August Håkansson.