Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Lost Missions of Yucatán —Tahcabó update

In a recent series of posts we looked at the Lost Missions of Yucatán—ruined and abandoned colonial churches or Indian chapels around the peninsula.
   One example that we did not include in the survey was the largely ruined church of San Bartolomé Tahcabó, north of the city of Valladolid in eastern Yucatan.  
   Occupation at Tahcabó, a small Yucatec Maya village of around 500 people, can be traced back from the present to as early as 400 BC. A substantial Maya settlement with ancient pyramids and platforms formerly occupied the site.
Tahcabó, ancient Maya temple mound beside the mission
In the 16th century Spanish Franciscan friars evangelized the region and established a mission, starting with a stone open air chapel. Like most other early missions, stone from nearby Maya buildings was used in its construction.
Tahcabó, the sanctuary, former open chapel  ©Tajinrojo
As can be seen from this picture, the original open chapel was a substantial, squared stone building with a high archway and side rooms plus an added belfry.  The steeply pitched roofline of the original thatched nave, extending in front and now gone, can still be traced above the arch.  
   Later, the open sided thatched nave was replaced by a longer, permanent structure with a masonry facade, the old open chapel serving as the sanctuary of the church. The church was burned and abandoned during the devastating 19th century Caste War.
Tahcabó, the restored church facade  © AIA
While the original sanctuary remains to be restored, the façade of the church has been refaced. Its peaked profile echoes the steep angle of the fallen roof.
   Currently, religious services are held in a small covered chapel behind the façade. A wooden bull ring sits next to the present-day church within what would have been the atrium of the original church.
The mission site  © AIA
Recently, the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) awarded a Site Preservation Grant to The Alliance for Heritage Conservation (AHC) under the direction of Patricia McAnany, AHC Executive Director and Kenan Eminent Professor in the Department of Anthropology at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and Sarah Rowe, AHC Program Director and Research Staff at the Research Laboratories of Archaeology at the UNC, Chapel Hill.
   The AIA grant will support a conservation and education program focused on stabilization and restoration of the early church, in collaboration with the community of Tahcabó

A short video from AHC can be seen on you tube

Details of another lost jungle mission at Lalcah, located near Felipe Carrillo Puerto in Quintana Roo, have recently been published.

text © 2015 Richard Perry

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