Mechelen Patershof Hotel

By Dora Dmitriev

Built by the Franciscan monks in 1867, the "Paterskirk" in Mechelen, Belgium looks like an ordinary church- which is what I thought it was prior to entering. As I walked in I was greeted by a doorman ready to take my suitcase.

Street view of Martin's Patershof

In 2009 the Paterskirk church opened as a 4-star hotel known as Martin’s Patershof. Nowhere else in the world is there a five-story hotel with 56 rooms inscribed within a church. To transform the church’s interior was no easy feat. The Architectural Heritage of Flanders had many requirements for Martin’s Hotels. The steel-concrete frame of the hotel can be painlessly removed from the church, after which the interior of the building can return to its original appearance. At the same time, the building needed to meet fire safety requirements, the premises had to be light enough, soundproofed and insulated. 

Hotel entrance

The steel and concrete frame in contrast with the existing church

The Architectural Heritage of Flanders also insisted that the Rosary window above the main entrance should be completely visible from the ground floor and that "the interior space of the church should not be disturbed as much as possible". For the sake of 4-star compliance, it was necessary that each room with stained-glass windows also have opening windows for ventilation and observation purposes.

The Rosary window

Different types of windows

The interior design of the 4-star hotel (5 stars are only given with a pool) was done by Ms. Huguett Martin, who is responsible for the interior design at Martin's Hotels. She managed to create a cozy and modern space with a design that nevertheless echoes the original church. Neo-Gothic arches resembling organ pipes, are reimagined in the tall leather backs of benches in the restaurant and in the backs of beds in the rooms. All the columns and capitals are preserved, even if they now live in the bathrooms.

Neo-Gothic arch inspired bed headboard

Bathroom with existing capitals

The stained glass in the rooms creates a completely unique mood, especially in the mornings and evenings. In the best hotel room (# 528) you wake up under the stucco molding from the sunlight penetrating through five stained glass windows! All the hotel rooms differ from one another in layout and in decoration. Working within a rigid framework.

Hotel room #528

Stucco molding ceiling detail

Most Church rooms are traditionally darker than regular interiors, so a lot of attention was given to lighting. The lighting of the hotel brightens the rooms and is also designed to highlight the church’s architectural details. Colored glare is projected on the white tile floor in the lobby, as if there aren’t five floors above it and the light still falls through the stained glass windows.

Illuminated arches

Dramatic hallway lighting

Colored glare projected in the lobby

If these delicate details are for some reason unnoticed by the guests of Martin’s Patershof, then breakfast in the mind of the untouched iconostasis will be easily remembered for a long time. There is just something so rare about dining under the faces of saints that you can’t experience anywhere else.

Breakfast served under the iconostasis