Thursday, June 25, 2009

Important architectural icon in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile knocked down by local priest

In a move that is only as colossally stupid as the most colossally stupid and disrespectful move could be, this beautiful Chilean sight will be seen no more.

church, san pedro de atacama
(photo: bearshapedsphere)

Today's La Tercera reports that the entry to this centuries-old church in San Pedro de Atacama was destroyed so they could pull a tow truck into the church grounds to repair the bell tower that was cracked in the 2007 Tocopilla earthquake. Those of you hoping to catch this iconic shot will now be treated to this sight instead:

(photo, La Tercera)

The church is perhaps the most well-known construction in the whole adorable desert outpost town in the Atacama, the jumping-off point for the Geysers at El Tatio, Valle de La Luna, Laguna Chaxa, Laguna Cejar, Lincancabur Volcano, the Altiplanic Lakes, Pukara de Quitor and scores of other attractions. It is one of (probably) the two most visited places in Chile, with the other being Torres del Paine national park.

Apparently the work was proposed to the Consejo de Monumentos Nacionales (National Monument Advisory Board), and rejected, because the proposal did not include adequate engineering studies to ensure that the bell tower would not collapse during the repairs. The head of the parish decided to go ahead with the works, regardless, and in the process had the original 17th-century wall around the church knocked down so that a tow truck could come closer to the church. Story here (in Spanish).

Do I really need to say I'm disgusted? Do I need to tell you how sad I think it is that a country that has so little historically-preserved architecture dating back a few centuries could do something so unequivocably stupid? Maybe that idea they had to knock a hole in the Andes to let the pollution escape to the coast is next on the list. Or we could cut up the Torres and sell them as souveniers.

And for what it's worth, the truck could have come in through another part of the wall, they didn't have to knock down the principal entry.

The newspaper article says it's possible that the case will be presented to the Consejo de Defensa del Estado (CDE), State Defense Advisory Board. Grrr. I wonder if they'd like me to testify how much I loved that entryway. A picture's worth a thousand words, don'tcha know.

cyclist from inside church grounds

I've got 2,000 right here. And another few hundred thousand on my hard drive.


Katie said...

What an absolute shame. :(

Bystander said...

I share your anger, but it was not Chile which knocked it down. It was a the local priest and someone who calls himself an architect. They just decided to go ahead without approval of the CNM (which they needed) to "fix" the bell tower and knocked down the wall to get to it. It is a tremendous shame.

Margaret said...

I'm as outraged as you are! I even checked my calendar to see if was April 1. It's not... and I assume there's no joke to this unbelievable and lamentable act of stupidity... I like to think that there's a logical side to everything... but cannot possibly fathom what could justify such an absurd move!

Eileen said...

Bystander commented on a previous version of the title, which claimed that Chile had knocked the wall down. She's totally right, and I've since changed the title.

I'm still horrified, but it's not really Chile's fault, except inasmuch the nation as a whole failed to raise a priest smart enough to preserve history.

I wonder what the rebuild will look like, and how much it will cost. It won't be the same, at any rate.

Carmen said...

Completely insane...:(( it doesn't make any sense to destroy such a well-known symbol of Atacama.

Anonymous said...

AUGH!! What a crime. That kind of stuff makes me so mad.

Abby said...

That's horrible. Some people are just so so so so stupid. I liked that entrance way too. Buuuuuuu. :(

Eileen said...

I was also wondering if we could talk about the poor quality of the La Tercera photo, or if that would be just adding insult to injury. They should have asked me to go up there and snap. Just saying.

Natalie said...

Quite unbelievable. Knock down one thing to attempt to repair another.... just a bit illogical.

Great blog, by the way. I've been reading it a lot recently as we're moving to Chile in 2010. (I'm the reader from London who has spent a bit of time on your blog today as I'm stuck at home with the flu).

Bystander said...

Thanks for changing the title! It seemed unfair considering CNM had tried to stop him even touching the bell tower.
San Pedro is probably the Gulag for incompetent priests so I don't know where else they could send him.........but I hope it is far away. Please, let it not be Easter Island.

Leigh said...

What?!! NO!!! I feel so lucky to have seen the church and its entryway intact!

Anonymous said...

Un amigo apuntó correctamente que para construir esa iglesia habían destruido sitios arqueológicos tradicionales, pisoteando tradiciones aymaras.

El catolicismo en este país fue impuesto con la espada, así que no todos están tan tristes con hechos como éste, la verdad.