1996 World Monuments Watch
The Jesuit church in Quito is one of the most significant baroque structures of South America. Portions of the church were destroyed by fire during conservation work in early 1996. The disaster calls attention to the potential risks posed by the restoration process itself. Features of the church include a magnificent golden dome, an altarpiece of carved wood, and a collection of precious objects of bronze, gold, and silver. Even before the fire, there were serious threats to the building – its location in an active seismic zone, atmospheric pollution, ground-water infiltration, past overcleaning of metal objects and surfaces, and wood deterioration all posed problems. Part of a religious complex built by theJesuits, the church sits within the educational, cultural, and spiritual center of Quito.
Since the Watch
Following a devastating fire in 1996, emergency funds were offered by the government, banco Pichincha, and UNESCO. An extensive restoration project was completed in 2005. Meanwhile, the Pichincha Volcano, around which Quito is built, became active again in 1998 after a period of more than 300 years, and erupted in 1999. A recent proposal to reconstruct the bell tower that collapsed in an earthquake in 1859 aroused controversy and attracted the attention of the World Heritage Committee, which urged that the effort be abandoned. February 2011