Whether you're spiritual or not, you have to admit: There's something special about a place of worship. From historic Roman Catholic cathedrals in Western Europe to peaceful Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia - and countless variety of churches, synagogues, and mosques in between - religious venues effuse a sense of peace and reflection that few other locales can match. For that reason, religious institutions can be just as ideal for meetings as they are for prayer and meditation. After all, "congregation" is really just another word for "meeting group." If you want to give your meeting a deeper meaning, consider convening at one of these former sanctuaries, each of which has made the transition from "holiness" to "hospitality":
Le Monastère des Augustines (Québec, Canada)
When established in 1639, Le Monastère des Augustines
was North America's first hospital north of Mexico. Created by three Augustinian nuns committed to caring for the sick, it eventually spawned 11 other hospitals - now part of Québec's public health care system - where the Augustinian Sisters acted as owners, nurses, and pharmacists until the 1960s. To preserve their legacy in a world of dwindling faith, the sisters recently decided to restore their monastery and turn it into a nonprofit wellness hotel that continues to perpetuate their mission of healing.
Opened in 2015, Le Monastère des Augustines has 65 guest rooms in what used to be the nuns' sleeping quarters, not to mention a restaurant specializing in healthy cuisine, a museum of historic artifacts from the sisters' 12 hospitals, wellness services like nutrition counseling and massages, daily activities such as guided meditation and yoga, and 10 meeting rooms for groups of up to 130 people.
A handful of nuns still call the monastery home; if you see one of them, be sure to say "merci" for their hospitality.
Fontevraud L'Hôtel (Anjou, France)
The Royal Abbey of Fontevraud
in France's Loire Valley was founded in 1101 as a monastery. After centuries of religious observation, Napoleon turned the now-UNESCO World Heritage Site into a prison in 1804, which it remained until 1963. In 2014, the 12-century abbey underwent a, roughly, $20.5 million renovation that gave it yet another identity: boutique hotel.
The modern property has 54 guest rooms; a bar embedded with interactive touchscreens that guests can use to play games or learn about the property while they imbibe; an onsite restaurant in the abbey's former cloisters; and several unique meeting spaces, including the lawn in front of the abbey's church and the church itself, which has a capacity of 800.
Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine (Sardón de Duero, Spain)
Two hours from Madrid is Abadía Santa Maria de Retuerta, one of only two Benedictine abbeys to survive Napoleon's invasion of Spain in the 19th century. Built in 1145, it was converted into a five-star hotel in 2012 following a meticulous eight-year renovation. The hotel, LeDomaine
, sits on a 1,700-acre estate that's home to a 21-year-old winery, a Michelin-starred restaurant, and a 10,000-square-foot spa. Along with 30 accommodations, it offers meeting rooms for groups of up to 30 and can host events for groups of up to 200 in the abbey's breathtaking church. In case your attendees include VIPs, there's even a helipad for arrivals and departures via helicopter.
The Temple Hotel (Beijing, China)The Temple Hotel
has only been open since 2013, but the building in which it's located has been around for some 600 years. According to its operator, the property dates back to the early 15th century. During the Ming Dynasty, the site - situated by the northeast walls of Beijing's Forbidden City - was home to a series of imperial shops that printed Buddhist sutras and texts for the emperor's religious teachers. In the 18th century, during the Qing Dynasty, three Buddhist temples were built on the grounds. In the 1970s, a television manufacturer took over the location and demolished two of the three temples. The lone survivor, the Zhizhusi temple, was eventually abandoned only to be rediscovered in 2007 by developers who rescued and restored it. The product of their work - called The Temple Hotel - has eight guest rooms, a restaurant, an art gallery, and several event spaces, including the two-story "Main Hall" that serves as the venue's architectural centerpiece.
The Priory Hotel (Pittsburgh, PA)
The United States has its share of churches-cum-hotels, too. One is Pittsburgh's The Priory Hotel
. Built in 1888, the building originally was a Benedictine monastery. It became a family-owned boutique hotel in 1986 and 30 years later, the same family continues to own and operate the premises. In 2011, the property underwent a $2.7 million expansion. Along with 42 guest rooms, the hotel has a pub, a fitness center, a business center, three adjoining meeting rooms for groups of up to 60, and an ornate ballroom located in the adjacent St. Mary's Church, where groups of up to 500 are treated to tiled floors, stunning stained glass windows, and majestic vaulted ceilings.