Drought In Mexico Reveals Beautiful Remains Of Mid-16th Century Church, Water Levels Drop 82 Feet Uncovering Stunning Structure

The drought in the southern Mexico state of Chiapas has caused water levels in the Grijalva river reservoir to drop 82 feet. As the water level dropped, a stunning structure was revealed beneath the waters that had been buried under the liquid for 50 years, only being exposed once in all of those years. The stunning mid-16th century church was submerged in the river in 1966 when the area flooded. However, thanks to the recent drought, the ancient remains are visible once more to those in the area.

The Daily Mail reports that the Temple of Santiago, also known as the Temple of Quechula, was built by monks in the 16th century. The grand structure was an iconic building along the Grijalva river until 1966, when the area was flooded and the church was buried beneath its waters. The historic church was connected with the nearby monastery of Tecpatan, which was founded in 1564. The church remained occupied until the plagues of 1773 through 1776. During the plagues, the church was abandoned and would remain as nothing more than a symbol of the past.

The church was important as it sat near the King’s highway which was used by Spanish conquistadors. However, there was sadness in the community when the historically relevant church was submerged in the flooding of 1966. Though the church has remained mostly underwater, a local fisherman, Leonel Mendoza, says that the remains became visible in 2002. The waters were down so low that people could enter the top portions of the church. He noted that the exposure of the ancient church was a cause for celebration in the region and people would come to the location to do processionals to the church and picnic outside. He claims the church being exposed was good for his business, as people would come and buy fried fish from him. However, with the waters receding once again with the recent droughts, Mendoza says that more of the church is exposed and many people are requesting a tour of the remains via his boat.

“They came to eat, to hang out, to do business. I sold them fried fish. They did processions around the church.”

According to SF Gate, the church is large, measuring 183 feet in length and 42 feet wide. The walls are about 30 feet high, with a bell tower that reaches 48 feet in height. When the church remains were originally revealed, people claim that a wood chorus loft and roof beams were still present in the structure. The remains also showcase an ossuary for plague victims. Though the church appears to be a somewhat grand structure, architect Carlos Navarete says it was likely never a large church body and may not have even had its own dedicated priest. Instead, it is believed the church relied on visiting priests from Tecpatan.

“At that time we still found the wood from the chorus loft and the roof beams. Also a large ossuary of the victims of the plague that depopulated the area. It was a church built thinking that this could be a great population center, but it never achieved that. It probably never even had a dedicated priest, only receiving visits from those from Tecpatan.”

Though the church was not a success during its time of use, it is drawing visitors from around the area now that it is visible once more. What do you think about the iconic church emerging from the waters once more?

[Image Credit: Getty Images/ Jasper Juinen]