What is it called when a building is announced to be a church, like, effective now, tada, this is a church?

And conversely, what is it called when a church is revoked the rights of such, as in it looks like it's been a church but is used like a museum?

I rejected churchify/dechurchify because it's not listed in Webster. I rejected canonize/excommunicate because those seem to refer a person.


2 Answers 2


I can only speak for the Catholic Church. My next door neighbor is a Catholic priest and according to him:

A church is commissioned/decommissioned. The same term as used for many other types of buildings when they are taken in use for a particular purpose.

The act of commissioning a church requires the church to be made "Holy Ground". This involves a number of church rituals and is called the "Consecration" of the church. Consecrate/consecration can also be used as a verb and noun, and is often done so as an alternative to commissioning/commission, but it is not quite the same thing. An unused church which is still Holy Ground can be re-commissioned without the need for a Consecration.

In order to decommission a church, it is not really required to de-consecrate it. It is sufficient to stop using it as a church, but it will remain Holy Ground, until something takes place that de-sanctifies the place. (E.g. a serious act of desecration. Minor vandalism, like kicking over a tombstone in a graveyard, isn't enough. Having sex on the altar would do it. This actually happened in 2017 in a church in The Netherlands.)
There is also a church procedure to remove the Holy Ground status if desired. This is typically done if it is known in advance the place is going to be re-used for a purpose that is clearly at odds with its former usage as Holy Ground.

If a church is de-sanctified (lost its Holy Ground status) it needs to be re-consecrated before it can be used as a church again.
This is more involved than the regular consecration ritual as it consists of 2 parts: Removing the "evil" stain that de-sanctified it (making it neutral ground again) and then the normal consecration procedure.

P.S. Same thing applies to chapels and graveyards.


A place can be consecrated as a church and later deconsecrated.

  • I've never heard "deconsecrated" - got a citation? It would certainly make sense in context, I'm just wondering if it's the most-common word for that (or if there even is a word).
    – Soron
    Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 2:19
  • 7
    "Deconsecrated" is a word. "Deconsecrate" is the verb with the opposite meaning to "consecrate". en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/deconsecrate. Note, "deconsecrated" does not have the same meaning as "unconsecrated," which is always an adjective - there is no verb "to unconsecrate": en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/unconsecrated.
    – alephzero
    Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 2:45
  • 3
    Pls consider editing alephzero's comment into the answer. Alternatively, @alephzero post this comment as your own answer. (Answers should be backed up with evidence like this)
    – Qsigma
    Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 8:55
  • 6
    @Imperator: No, desecrate means to treat the consecrated with disrespect, like spray-painting a gravestone, or tossing ritual vessels onto the floor. Desecration is vandalism or similar. It does not mean to desanctify a place in a ritual manner that shows respect for its once "holy" status.
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 13:10
  • 2
    @Imperator No. Desecration is the violation of the holy status of a place; deconsecration is the removal of the holy status by the church, so the place can be used for something else. Commented Aug 5, 2018 at 18:14

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .