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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Yucatán. San Román Chancenote: Then and Now

For the final post in our year end series on Yucatán we go to the remote north eastern corner of the peninsula to look at the imposing ruin of San Román Chancenote.  In our first visit here thirty years ago we photographed the church in what was, and sadly largely still is, its advanced state of neglect.
     Chancenote was among the furthest outposts of the Franciscan evangelical effort in the 16th century, founded in the 1570s as an outlying visita of their great monastery at Tizimín. But the primitive mission almost immediately came under the control of the diocesan clergy, who constructed the present grand church some 200 years later in the mid 1700s.
   The church looms above the atrium, which resembles a primitive oilfield—dotted with wells that tap into the vast underlying cenote
San Román Chancenote in 1985
At dawn on February 10, 1848, two thousand Maya rebels swarmed into San Román Chancenote. The defenders of the town fought their way to the atrium and then retreated into the church, but to no avail. They were all cut down and slaughtered, except for a handful hidden on the church roof—the only surviving witnesses to these bloody events. The church was stripped of its altarpieces and other furnishings, which were put to the torch. All the wells were filled in and the settlement abandoned for almost a hundred years. 
Chancenote in 2010
Although the handsome detailing of the facade is still evident, the imposing 18th century church is dilapidated. Gaps have opened in the delicate Moorish parapets and the great barrel vault is ominously cracked and in danger of falling
   In August 2010 the lone south tower of the church of San Román, already weakened and damaged from long years of neglect and frequent lightning strikes, finally succumbed to one more, and almost entirely collapsed. 
  
1985 photographs
1985 photograph
Charred carved wooden beams that once supported the choir loft, together with the broad shell arches above the doors and windows, hint at its former elegance. The altar niches along the stripped nave are now occupied by rustic folk santos and crucifixes. 
The large, arcaded camarín behind the altar, which formerly housed an image of the Virgin, is now empty and in ruins.
 
santos in 1985
Colorful fragments of a colonial fresco portraying the Archangel Michael cling to the wall of the sacristy, and in the nave a substantial stone font is the sole remaining artifact at Chancenote to have outlasted the depredations of time and turmoil.
 
please review our earlier posts on Yucatán, Then and Now: 
UmánYaxcabáTicuchNohcacab; San Francisco de Mérida
text © 2016 Richard D. Perry. 
color images ©1985 by the author.   all rights reserved

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