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Catholic Doctrine Temples

Date de soumission : 27/09/2012
Critères: (ii)(iv)
Catégorie : Culturel
Soumis par :
Permanent Delagation of Colombia to UNESCO
État, province ou région :
Province of Cauca, municipalities of Inzá y Páez-Belalcázar
Ref.: 5767

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Les noms des biens figurent dans la langue dans laquelle les États parties les ont soumis.


Municipality of Páez-Belalcázar N2 38 42.95 W75 58 19.86

Municipality of Inzá N2 32 59.74 W76 3 54.54

This group of seven temples is situated in a particular area between volcanoes, rivers and spectacular views of all which provide for the existence of thermal floors varying from warm to paramo generating a broad diversity of flora and fauna as well as several water sources. Several groups of Pre-Hispanic indigenous groups inhabited the area, their most important legacy is represented in the hypogea or burial structures of Tierradentro located in the reservation of San Andrés de Pisimbalá and that were built between the 9th and 12th centuries A.D., These sites are protected by the Colombian legislation and are inscribed on the World Heritage List.

These temples represent the triumph of the Spanish conquest process in this part of the territory, in a period in which colonization and evangelization were already well advanced in other areas of the country. In 1537 Juan de Ampudia (Outpost Leader of Sebastián de Belalcázar), Sebastián Quintero and Bartolomé Ruíz unsuccessfully attempted the subjection of the Paeces, Pijaos and Yalcones indigenous groups, encountering strong resistance. It was only until 1783, when Jerónimo Inzá founded the town of the same name, when the Spaniards managed to permanently settle in the area. As an immediate result of the foundation of this and the towns of Belalcázar and La Plata, the Paeces group became enclosed in the area leading to the subsequent establishment of reservations and what would be the start of the evangelization process, which began with the visit of reverend José Fernández de Belalcázar to the Pisimbalá reservation.

The material representation of such evangelization process is the set of Catholic doctrine temples, which is the product of transculturation between the catholic doctrine received by the local communities and their own customs and traditions. The Spanish component is reflected on the spatial and functional distribution of the temples, while the indigenous peoples contributed the materials, the construction system and the labor.

This type of buildings is located in isolated places, the backside generally facing a hill with congregation places in front of the entrance; this is a particular feature of religious architecture of the catholic doctrine in America. With a rectangular floor plan (6 to 12 meters wide x 21 to 31 long), the temples were built with timber and earth with a system that consisted mud walls and rammed earth on a foundation made of stones with small geometrical variations of the roof (most of the time made of plants).

The temples are made up by five spaces: the ante chapel, delimited by an arcade and that is used as a transition space between the inner part of the temple and the outside; the central nave, the chancel, the vestry and a choir located on the entrance of the temple, on a second floor. Said spaces are located on three different levels: the antechapel and the nave are situated on the lower level and the chancel is elevated two or three treads with respect of the nave while the choir is located on the second floor.  Access is most of the time from the chancel to the vestry. In some temples there are wall paintings as a decorative element inside the space and doors and/or lateral windows.

The temples of San Miguel de Avirama and Santa Rosa de Suin were declared National Sites of Cultural Interest in 1998, while the temples of San Antonio de Chinas, San Andrés de Pisimbalá, Santa Rosa de Lima and San Pedro Apóstol de Togoima were added to the same list in 2005. The Temple of San Roque de Yaquivá is not protected by the Colombian legislation. The group of temples has remained throughout time as a cultural reference for the indigenous communities where they are located, namely in the southwestern part of the country. Both the Temple of San Andrés de Pisimbalá and the Temple of Santa Rosa de Lima have undergone complete renovation works.

Justification de la Valeur Universelle Exceptionnelle

The temple would be the first building to be built in newly conquered towns later colonized by the Spaniards. During the 18th Century, in the Tierradentro region, located in the southwestern part of the country, a group of twelve temples were built in a relatively small area and were destined to indoctrination of the indigenous population. The same pattern was seen in other regions of the country leading to the construction of similar buildings as of the 17th Century. Although the temples would have formal elements common to other temples built in the country, they had formal variations resulting from the local indigenous groups’ culture.

Unlike the majority of the catholic doctrine temples of the rest of the country, most of which no longer exist, this interesting group of temples remains standing; they are characterized for their homogeneity and for being the product of a cultural syncretism process between Spaniards and the indigenous people and due to their being an important reference for the memory of the communities that have inhabited this area.

Of the twelve initial temples, those still standing today are: San Miguel de Avirama, San Antonio de Chinas, San Andrés de Pisimbalá, Santa Rosa de Lima o Capisisco, Santa Rosa de Suin, San Pedro Apóstol de Togoima and San Roque de Yaquivá. The remaining five, Calderas, Lame, Tálaga, Toez and Willa, have disappeared mostly due to natural events.

Criterion (ii): This homogeneous group of temples is a unique example of the religious syncretism that took place in this part of the continent, as a result of the combination of traditional techniques and knowledge with Spanish building styles in a clear sample of cultural exchange. Their presence led to the establishment of towns or reservations that remain in place until this day; their residents find in them an important cultural reference.

Criterion (iv):The doctrine temples represent the materialization of the last conquest phase and the Spanish colonization in American soil, which in Colombia´s case lasted from the 16th to the 18th century, offering similar formal answers in this part of the continent and finding an interesting and particular variation in this group of temples.

Déclarations d’authenticité et/ou d’intégrité

The presence of this group of temples in the region of Tierradentro is of great historical importance as it represents the materialization of the Spanish colonization and evangelization project in an area that resisted foreign presence for more than two centuries, being one of the last parts of the territory to fall under the Crown domain.

The construction technique of the majority of the temples and the manual labor used for their execution was provided by the indigenous peoples and it is maintained until today. The use of said technique led to the materialization of Spanish architectural designs achieving homogeneity in the formal expression of the buildings.

The temples are an invaluable historical document that attests the high degree of syncretism between the Spaniards and the indigenous peoples. Although the evangelization process entailed various issues and disputes, it is known that in some cases, the initiative to build, to transfer the land where the buildings would be located and the labor would be the responsibility of the indigenous communities of the area. The maximum expression of such cultural syncretism is observed in the Santa Rosa de Lima or Capisisco Temple, where the belfry ends in an effigy of female chief Angelina Gullumus, promoter of the construction of certain temples.

On the other hand, six of the seven temples are currently protected by the Colombian legislation as Sites of Cultural Interest since 1998 in the case of San Miguel de Avirama and Santa Rosa de Suin, while the temples of San Antonio de Chinas, San Andrés de Pisimbalá, Santa Rosa de Lima and San Pedro Apóstol de Togoima were included on the list in 2005.

Comparaison avec d’autres biens similaires

Jesuit missions of the Guaranis: San Ignacio Miní, Santa Ana, Nuestra Señora de Loreto and Santa María La Mayor (Argentina), Ruins of San Miguel de las Misiones (Brazil)

All are inscribed on the World Heritage List under criterion number vi. They comprise the ruins of five Jesuit missions built between the 17th and centuries 18th in land located between Argentina and Brazil which are in an unequal condition of preservation and are the testimony of the indoctrination process of the indigenous communities of the area. Their urban approach was organized based on the presence of a square space around which the main buildings would be built such as the temple and the priesters´ residence.

Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos (Bolivia)

The sites are inscribed on the World Heritage List under criteria number iv and v. They are made up by six areas (Concepción, Santa Ana, San Francisco, San José, San Miguel and San Rafael) founded by the Jesuits between the 17th and 18th centuries; they all survived after the expelling of the Jesuits . The formal language of the buildings is the result of combining the Spanish model of the catholic doctrine temple and the local traditions. The urban concept of these towns is inspired on the ideal cities of the philosophers of the 16th century and consists in the arrangement of buildings around a squared space used as main square, placing the temple on one of the sides.

Jesuit Missions of the Santísima Trinidad de Paraná and Jesús de Taravangue (Paraguay)

They are inscribed on the World Heritage List under criterion number iv. Some buildings are preserved in some of the original areas, among which the Jesuit observatory, while the urban groups are still preserved in the Santiago area (built in 1651), Jesús de Taravangue (built in 1685), Santa Rosa de Lima (built in 1698) and Trinidad del Paraná (built in 1706).

Franciscan Missions of Sierra Gorda de Querétaro (Mexico)

The sites are inscribed on the World Heritage List under criteria number ii and iii. They were built in the middle of the 18th century. Their strategic location served as spearhead in the evangelization work in regions such as Arizona, California and Texas. Villages were founded in the direct surroundings, most of which still remain today. The temples represent an interesting sample of the combination of the work between the Spaniards and the indigenous communities during the construction process.