Churches of Chiloé

Churches of Chiloé

The Churches of Chiloé represent a unique example in Latin America of an outstanding form of ecclesiastical wooden architecture. They represent a tradition initiated by the Jesuit Peripatetic Mission in the 17th and 18th centuries, continued and enriched by the Franciscans during the 19th century and still prevailing today. These churches embody the intangible richness of the Chiloé Archipelago, and bear witness to a successful fusion of indigenous and European culture, the full integration of its architecture in the landscape and environment, as well as to the spiritual values of the communities.

Églises de Chiloé

Les églises de Chiloé constituent un exemple unique en Amérique Latine d'architecture religieuse en bois. Elles représentent une tradition initiée aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècle par des prêcheurs jésuites itinérants, tradition poursuivie et enrichie par les Franciscains au XIXe siècle et qui prévaut encore de nos jours. Ces églises illustrent l'extraordinaire richesse de l'archipel de Chiloé et témoignent de la fusion réussie de la culture et des techniques indigènes et européennes, de la parfaite intégration de son architecture dans le paysage et l'environnement, ainsi que des valeurs spirituelles des communautés.

كنائس تشيلوي

تشكّل كنائس تشيلوي مثالاً فريداً عن الهندسة الدينية الخشبية في أميركا اللاتينية. وهي تعكس تقليداً خاصاً أطلقه المبشرون اليسوعيون الجوّالون في القرنين السابع عشر والثامن عشر، ثم تابعه وعزّزه الرهبان الفرنسيسكانيون في القرن التاسع عشر وهو لا يزال رائجاً حتى يومنا هذا. تجسّد هذه الكنائس الوفرة التي يتمتع بها أرخبيل تشيلوي كما تشهد على الإنصهار الناجح بين الثقافة والتقنيات الأصلية والأوروبية وعلى الإندماج المذهل لهندسة هذا الأرخبيل في المنظر الطبيعي والبيئة المحيطة به، الى جانب القيم الروحية للمجتمعات المحلية.

source: UNESCO/ERI

奇洛埃教堂

奇洛埃教堂是拉丁美洲特有的基督教木式建筑的杰出代表,所代表的建筑传统始于17和18世纪的耶稣会布道团(Jesuit Peripatetic Mission),在19世纪得到圣芳济会(Franciscans)的发扬,并流传至今。这些教堂象征了智利群岛文化上的繁荣,也见证了当地文化与欧洲文化的成功融合,建筑与自然环境,以及当地社会精神价值的有机统一。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Церкви на островах Чилоэ

Церкви Чилоэ являются уникальным для Латинской Америки примером развития форм церковной деревянной архитектуры. Они представляют традицию, начатую в XVII-XVIII вв. иезуитской странствующей миссией, продолженную и развитую в XIX в. францисканцами, и превалирующую до сих пор. Эти церкви представляют собой также часть нематериального наследия островов Чилоэ и служат примером успешного слияния местной и европейской культур, органичного включения архитектуры в окружающий ландшафт и признания духовных ценностей местных общин.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Iglesias de Chiloé

Construidas enteramente de madera, las iglesias de Chiloé constituyen un ejemplo único de la arquitectura religiosa en Latinoamérica. Son representativas de una tradición arquitectónica iniciada por los predicadores itinerantes jesuitas en los siglos XVII y XVIII. Tras haber sido continuada y enriquecida por los franciscanos en el siglo XIX, esa tradición perdura todavía en nuestros días. Además de ilustrar la riqueza cultural del archipiélago de Chiloé, estas iglesias atestiguan la lograda fusión de la cultura y las técnicas indígenas con las europeas, la perfecta armonización de su arquitectura con el paisaje y al entorno físico, y la perdurable continuidad de los valores espirituales las comunidades isleñas.

source: UNESCO/ERI

チロエの教会群
チリ南部にあるチロエ島は、1567年のスペイン支配後はイエズス会による宣教活動が行われた。1767年に撤退しフランチェスコ会が継承するまでの間に、現在残るだけでも159の木造教会が建てられた。そのうち14棟の教会は木造教会建築としては類まれな形態を示している。現地の建築様式や彫刻、原産の木材を採用したことで、先住民とヨーロッパの文化的・宗教的伝統が見事に融合している。内装はヨーロッパの教会建築の伝統に従っている。

source: NFUAJ

Kerken van Chiloé

De Kerken van Chiloé zijn een uniek voorbeeld van bijzondere houten architectuur in Latijns-Amerika. Zij vertegenwoordigen een traditie die geïnitieerd werd door de Jezuïtische ambulante missie in de 17e en 18e eeuw, voortgezet en verrijkt werd door de Franciscanen in de 19e eeuw en vandaag de dag nog steeds levend is. De kerken getuigen van een succesvolle combinatie van inheemse en Europese cultuur, de volledige integratie van architectuur in de omgeving en de geestelijke waarden van de gemeenschappen. Tegen het einde van de 19e eeuw waren er meer dan 100 kerken gebouwd, waarvan er tegenwoordig nog 60 over zijn.

Source: unesco.nl

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Churches of Chiloé © Lin linao
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief Synthesis

In the Chiloé archipelago off the coast of Chile 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 most exceptional illustrations of this unique form of wooden ecclesiastical architecture (the so-called Chilota School of architecture) are the churches of Achao, Quinchao, Castro, Rilán, Nercón, Aldachildo, Ichuac, Detif, Vilupulli, Chonchi, Tenaún, Colo, San Juan, Dalcahue, Chellín and Caguach. These sixteen churches are outstanding examples of the successful fusion of European and indigenous cultural traditions. 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.

This isolated archipelago was colonized by the Spanish in the mid 16th century. The Jesuits, who arrived in 1608, used a circulating missionsystem 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 construction techniques and architecture of the churches of Chiloé are specific to this locale: European experience was adapted and reformulated, giving rise to a vernacular tradition, supported by a great quantity and variety of testimonies which are still in use. Along with the culture of the archipelago, these churches are the result of a rich and extensive cross-cultural dialogue and interaction.

Along with their basic architectural design (tower façade, basilican layout and vaulted ceiling), these sixteen churches are significant for their building material, their construction systems and the expertise demonstrated by the Chilote carpenters, as well as for their interior decoration, particularly the traditional colours and the religious images. The churches are distinguished by an indigenous tradition of building in wood strongly influenced by boat-building techniques, as shown by the forms and jointing of the tower and roof structures. The orientation and location of the churches is deliberate: constructed according to the demands of the sea, they were arranged on hills to be seen by navigators and to prevent flooding. Their associated esplanades remain important components: they embody communication with the sea; they are the scenes of religious festivals; and even those that have been transformed into formal plazas still evoke the arrival of the missionaries during their circulating mission. Devotional and communitarian practices, religious festivals and supportive group activities such as minga (unpaid community work) are key components of the intangible values of the relationship between the communities and the churches. Also of importance is the subsoil of the churches, which one day may reveal information about the relationship between the locations of the churches and pre-Hispanic indigenous ritual sites.

Criterion (ii): The Churches of Chiloé are outstanding examples of the successful fusion of European and indigenous cultural traditions to produce a unique form of wooden architecture.

Criterion (iii): The mestizo culture resulting from Jesuit missionary activities in the 17th and 18th centuries has survived intact in the Chiloé archipelago, and achieves its highest expression in the outstanding wooden churches.

Integrity

All the elements necessary to express the Outstanding Universal Value of the 26.2-ha serial property are located within its boundaries. The boundaries are nevertheless very constricted, and most of the components lack a coherent buffer zone.

The collapse of the church of Chonchi’s tower as the result of a storm in March 2002 highlighted the fact that the state of conservation and the vulnerability of the churches were worse than previously assessed, particularly at the time of nomination. These churches require constant conservation efforts; the nature of the building material and the environmental characteristics make continual maintenance an imperative. The communities have always assured their conservation, but current phenomena associated with modernization and globalizations have increased the vulnerability of the churches.

Authenticity

The Churches of Chiloé present a high degree of authenticity in terms of their forms and designs, materials and substances, and locations and settings. Their architectural forms, materials and building systems constitute the zenith of a typological evolution, and have been preserved without substantive changes. Their function as places of worship has also been preserved. Interventions have retained all the richness of the typologies of connections, joints and fittings; period technology has been recovered and applied; and exceptional combinations of connections of a deeply local and singular character have been discovered. The traditions, techniques and management systems have been maintained, as have the essential conditions of the sites. Recent restorations have influenced a substantive reflection on the role of the intangible heritage.

Protection and management requirements

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. The Foundation was created by the Diocese to address the communities’ needs related to conservation, to bring professionals into the conservation process and to secure contributions by the State for their protection and restoration. The sixteen churches of Chiloé were declared a National Monument of Chile by means of various Decrees under Law No. 17.288 (1970). The supervision and protection of these assets is carried out by the Government of Chile through the National Monuments Council. The problem of the lack of coherent buffer zones for the property’s components is being addressed through the protection and regulation of the surrounding areas.

The clearest challenges for sustaining the Outstanding Universal Value of the property over time are the recovery and promotion of a local “culture of maintenance” for the buildings; the effective religious and community use of the churches by the population; and the active participation of local people in the conservation effort. The unified and selfless participation of the community in the conservation and preservation of the wisdom, expertise and ancestral knowledge of the carpenters, as well as participation in preventive maintenance and critical restoration, are essential in this regard.

The sustainability of the conservation effort is a significant challenge: the churches are located at the centres of their communities’ development, and a formula must be found to ensure their conservation in the context of any such development. The Government of Chile, with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank, has implemented a large-scale program since 2003 that has managed to reverse serious damage, particularly in the tower façades. Formulas must be found to ensure that, for example, tourism may result in tangible benefits for the communities and churches while at the same time avoiding the high risks of commercialization or trivialization.

A shortage of fine hardwoods and the protection of the species that provide them represent current challenges. The use of alternative woods that have the exceptional properties of larch and cypress is therefore being explored. Investigating, recording and transmitting the building techniques to new generations are essential, as well as research on the properties of different woods and on the treatments that mitigate the effects of weathering and attacks by xylophages. Finally, it is necessary to make advances in risk preparedness and in the environmental protection of these churches.

The churches of Chiloé present a delicate balance of social, environmental, physical and spiritual factors. It is the spiritual value inherent in these sixteen churches that gives rise to the complexity of their conservation. This is not a matter of simply repairing buildings; the challenge here is much greater, and in that challenge the very significance of heritage endeavour is in question.

Long Description

The Churches of Chiloé are outstanding examples of the successful fusion of European and indigenous cultural traditions to produce a unique form of wooden architecture. The mestizo culture resulting from Jesuit missionary activities in the 17th and 18th centuries has survived intact in the Chiloé archipelago, and achieves its highest expression in the outstanding wooden churches.

In the 16th century the inhabitants of the Chiloé archipelago, which extends from the Chacao Canal to the Corcovado Gulf, followed a sedentary way of life, based on a mixed farming and fishing economy. Spanish navigators had discovered the archipelago by the mid-16th century, but colonization did not begin until 1567, when Martín Ruiz de Gamboa founded the towns of Santiago de Castro and Chacao on the Isla Grande de Chiloé.

Following an exploratory visit in 1608, the Society of Jesus began sending its members to initiate the process of evangelization that was to shape the cultural features of the Archipelago. At first these missions were not permanently inhabited, but over time the Jesuits began building chapels and lodgings for their members, constructed by the local community using local materials and techniques. They appointed laymen, chosen from the leading families, to serve as fiscales, to care for the church and its cemetery and to minister to the basic spiritual needs of the community. This was in the Jesuit tradition, which encouraged active development of their social and religious life by indigenous communities. By the end of the 19th century over 100 churches had been built; between 50 and 60 survive to the present day, and 14 of these constitute the World Heritage site: Achao (Quinchao); Quinchao; Castro; Rilán (Castro); Nercón (Castro); Aldachildo (Puqueldón); Ichuac (Puqueldón); Detif (Puqueldón); Vilipulli (Chonchi); Chonchi; Tenaún (Quemchi); Colo (Quemchi); San Juan (Dalcahue); and Dalcahue.

The traditional Chiloé churches are located near the shore, facing an esplanade, which in some cases has been developed into a true plaza (Achao, Dalcahue), but elsewhere is no more than an open space defined by a fence or trees (Quinchao). Its size is determined by the importance of the religious festivals that take place there. The churches consist of a large volume with a pitched roof. The most typical feature of these buildings is the tower facade, on the side facing the esplanade, made up of an entrance portico, the gable wall or pediment, and the tower itself. This became the focus of urban development in these communities.

The portico is a characteristic feature of the earlier churches, but is lacking in those built in the 20th century. The tower is the dominating vertical feature, both as a religious element supporting the cross and also as a beacon for sailors. Most are of two or three storeys, with hexagonal or octagonal drums to reduce wind resistance. Only at Tenaún are there smaller flanking towers. The horizontal volume of the church varies, but depth is favoured over width. They conform with a basilican ground plan with three aisles, only the central one extending to the back wall. The aisles are separated by solid wooden columns on stone pads; these support a huge beam that forms the ridge. In most cases the main nave is barrel-vaulted, the flanking aisles having flat ceilings. Achao with its segmented ceiling and Rilán with fan vaulting are rare exceptions. The latter is clearly influenced by Gothic architecture, and elements of other major architectural styles can be recognized - Classicism at Chonchi, Renaissance at Nercón and Baroque at Achao. Everywhere there is abundant evidence of the Chilota mastery of working wood. The characteristic form and materials of the churches show virtually no variation over four centuries.

The ornamentation of the churches is profuse and varied. All the churches are adapted skilfully to their physical environment. They are built on hillsides, so as to avoid flooding during heavy rains, and are raised off the ground. The north sides are protected against storms, which generally come from this direction. They are fully enclosed structures, as protection against wind and rain, which can be heavy in this region.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

In the 16th century the inhabitants of the Chiloé archipelago followed a sedentary way of life, based on a mixed farming and fishing economy. Spanish navigators had discovered the Archipelago by the mid-16th century, but colonization did not begin until 1567, when Martín Ruiz de Gamboa founded the towns of Santiago de Castro and Chacao on the Isla Grande de Chiloé.

The Spaniards were impressed by the mild, receptive character of the local people. The universal encomienda system was applied, whereby the indigenous people paid tributes to the Spanish crown by working for the settlers in return for food and religious instruction. There were occasional native revolts, of which the most serious occurred in 1712, occasioned by the harsh treatment of the natives by the encomenderos of the time, who accused the Jesuits of having inspired the revolt, which was brutally repressed.

Missionaries had arrived with the first settlers, from the orders of St Francis and Our Lady of Mercy. Following an exploratory visit in 1608, the Society of Jesus began sending its members to initiate the process of evangelization that was to shape the cultural features of the Archipelago and to result in the building of the churches that figure in the present nomination.

The Jesuit strategy was encapsulated in the Peripatetic Mission. Annual tours were made by groups of Jesuits setting out from their College in Castro during the temperate months. They spent a few days at each of their missions according to a planned schedule; the missions had been founded close to the shore so as to permit these tours to be made by boat. While there they would attend to the spiritual and material needs of the communities. At first these missions were not permanently inhabited, but over time the Jesuits began building chapels and lodgings for their members, constructed by the local community using local materials and techniques. They appointed laymen, chosen from the leading families, to serve as fiscales, to care for the church and its cemetery and to minister to the basic spiritual needs of the community. This was in the Jesuit tradition, which encouraged active development of their own social and religious life by indigenous communities. By the end of the 19th century over a hundred churches had been built; between fifty and sixty survive to the present day.

Pirate raids were a feature of the 17th century, and the Spaniards living in the towns began to desert them in favour of greater security in the countryside. By so doing they took over the lands of the indigenous people, increasing racial and cultural assimilation between the two groups. The majority Chilota group in the Archipelago is the result of this process of interbreeding (mestizaje). Christianity was embraced by the natives whilst the Spaniards adopted the local language, Veliche (now extinct), for communication. The Spaniards also adopted the way of life of the local people, engaging in fishing and agriculture and using their technologies.

When the Jesuits were expelled in 1767 their work was continued by the Franciscans, who appreciated the value of the Jesuits' work and actively continued it. They used the Peripatetic Mission as the basis for the creation of nine centres, each with its own area of work. This was to become the present parish system, created in 1840.

Despite the efforts of the Spanish colonial power, the towns became no more than administrative centres, and by the time colonial rule came to an end there were no more than five towns (villas) in Chiloé. The strategic importance of the Archipelago was recognized, however, and it was dependent on the Captaincy General of Lima rather than that of Chile. The military garrison was stationed in the fortress of San Carlos de Ancud, founded in 1768.

The Chilota population was deeply loyal to the Spanish Crown. When the struggle for Chilean independence began in 1810, Chiloé became the headquarters of the Spanish operation to recover Chile and Peru. Although this failed, Chiloé remained a Spanish enclave after Chile finally won its independence in 1818; it remained the last toehold of Spanish rule in South America until it was incorporated into the new Republic eight years later.

Chiloé enjoyed a period of prosperity in the 19th century. Its ports were visited by ships travelling south and its timber was a major export. This came to an end at the end of the century, as a result of the opening of the Panamá Canal and the over-exploitation of the islands' cypress and larch trees. During the first half of the 20th century the economy also suffered from serious problems in agriculture and stockbreeding. As a result there was substantial Chilota emigration southwards, to Patagonia and the Magallanes Straits area. At the present time the economy of the Archipelago is developing on the basis of the controlled industrial exploitation of the natural resources (timber and fish) and traditional agriculture and fishing.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation