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A photograph of the colonial church that has emerged out of the Nezahualcoyotl reservoir in Chiapas, Mexico

Stunning 17th Century Church Emerges from Mexican Reservoir after Drought


The remnants of a 400-year-old Spanish colonial church have emerged from the depths of the Nezahualcoyotl reservoir in Chiapas, Mexico, after a drought caused the water level to drop by 82 feet (25 meters).  The church, known as the Temple of Santiago or Temple of Quechula was originally lost to the waters of the reservoir in 1966 when the dam was finished on the Grijalva River. Tourists are now flocking to the site to catch a glimpse of the Temple before it disappears beneath the water once again.

The church measures 183 feet long (61 meters) and 42 feet (14 meters) wide, while the bell tower reaches 48 feet (16 meters) above the ground.

The Temple of Quechula was first built in the mid-1600s by a group of monks headed by Friar Bartolome de la Casas. The Dominican friars also constructed a town around the church, which they called Quechala and Friar Bartolome made himself Bishop.

Mexico News Daily reports that the region was inhabited by the Zoque people, predecessors of the Olmec.  In 1494, they were invaded and defeated by the Aztecs before the Spanish moved into Zoque lands in 1523. Under Spanish rule, their population was decimated by disease and the toils of hard labor, and their land was parcelled out among the settlers.

Friar Bartolome initially supported the colonization and subjugation of the Zoque, but later took an opposing view and went on to write about the horrors of colonization.

Bartolome had high hopes for the town of Quechala, expecting it to one day become a great city. However, a plague hit the town in 1773, forcing the inhabitants to flee. The town and the church were left abandoned.

When the dam on the Grijalva River was completed, not just the colonial church, but the whole town and surrounding villages and archaeological sites were submerged.

The Associated Press (AP) reports that tourists are now flocking to the site to catch a glimpse of the temple before it disappears once again. Local fisherman Leonel Mendoza has been taking people to the site by boat in droves.

It is the third time that a drop in water level has revealed the church. In 2002 when the water decreased so much that people were able to walk inside the church.

People are taking the opportunity while they can to explore the church as it is not known when it may emerge from the water once again.

Featured image: A photograph of the colonial church that has emerged out of the Nezahualcoyotl reservoir in Chiapas, Mexico. Credit: Associated Press.

By April Holloway



I just want to point out, if the church was built in the 1600s, it is not a "16th century" church, but a "17th century" church.

That's quite something. Imagine living across a lake and one day seeing an entire church rising above the water.

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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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