Churches of Chiloé, World Heritage Site (Chile)

Churches of Chiloé, World Heritage Site (Chile)

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 12:24
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The Churches of Chiloé are found in the Chiloé Archipelago, off the coast of Chile's Los Lagos Region. Here are about 70 churches built within the framework of a "Circular Mission" introduced by the Jesuits in the 17th century and continued by the Franciscans in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Churches of Chiloé are found in the Chiloé Archipelago, off the coast of Chile's Los Lagos Region. Here are about 70 churches built within the framework of a "Circular Mission" introduced by the Jesuits in the 17th century and continued by the Franciscans in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Churches of Chiloé are a unique architectural phenomenon in the Americas and one of the most prominent styles of Chilota architecture.

Built in the 18th and 19th centuries when the Chiloé Archipelago was still a part of the Spanish Crown possessions, the churches represent the fusion of Spanish Jesuit culture and local native population's skill and traditions; an excellent example of mestizo culture.

Unlike classical Spanish colonial architecture, the churches of Chiloé are made entirely in native timber with extensive use of wood shingles. The churches were built from materials to resist the Chiloé Archipelago's humid and rainy oceanic climate.

The sixteen churches, deemed to be outstanding examples and registered as part of the World Heritage Site, are concentrated in the central eastern zone of the archipelago.

 

Map of 16 UNESCO-designated Churches of Chiloé

 

 

  1. Quinchao
  2. Castro
  3. Rilán
  4. Nercón
  5. Aldachildo
  6. Ichuac
  7. Detif
  8. Vilupulli
  9. Chonchi
  10. Tenaún
  11. Colo
  12. San Juan
  13. Dalcahue
  14. Chellín
  15. Cagach
  16. Achao

 

 

The sixteen Churches of Chiloé are part of the Catholic Church’s Diocese of Ancud. They are administered by the Bishop of Ancud and by parish priests who have the support of the Friends of the Churches of Chiloé Foundation, a private entity presided over by the Bishop himself and created specifically for the conservation and enhancement of the churches.

This isolated archipelago was colonized by the Spanish in the mid 16th century. The Jesuits, who arrived in 1608, used a circulating mission system in their evangelization of the area: religious groups made annual tours around the archipelago, staying for a few days at locations where churches were erected jointly with the communities of believers. The rest of the year a specially trained layperson attended the spiritual needs of the inhabitants.

The abilities of the people of Chiloé as builders achieved its highest expression in these wooden churches, where farmers, fishermen and sailors exhibited great expertise in the handling of the most abundant material in this environment, wood.

Along with the churches, the mestizo culture resulting from Jesuit missionary activities has survived to the present day. The University of Chile, Fundación Cultural Iglesias de Chiloé and other institutions have led efforts to preserve these historic structures and to publicize them for their unique qualities.