Site and Significance
A Unique Architectural Heritage
The historic town of La Jalca Grande is located in the Amazonas region of Peru, only 25 miles east of Kuelap, which was the political center of the Chachapoya civilization, a pre-Columbian culture that flourished from about 900 to 1400 CE.
La Jalca Grande’s church and freestanding tower were built in 1538, a few years after the Spanish conquest. The structures are notable for their combination of pre-Hispanic Chachapoya architecture and Spanish styles. The church and tower were built using stone from ancient pre-Hispanic buildings, and the interior and exterior walls display geometric figures with zigzag designs apparently inspired by Kuélap, Óllape, and Laguna de los Cóndores, archaeological sites from the Chachapoya civilization. The church also houses an extraordinary baroque main altar that features both Catholic and Chachapoya iconography. Through these features, the church connects the population of La Jalca Grande to the ancient traditions of the Chachapoya.
A Devastating Earthquake
On November 28, 2021, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck the region. The earthquake severely damaged La Jalca Grande’s local church—one of the first churches built in the northeast of Peru—causing the collapse of its freestanding tower.
In response to the earthquake, the Peruvian Ministry of Culture requested help from World Monuments Fund (WMF) through its Crisis Response Program, which seeks to provide critical support to communities to protect and restore their irreplaceable cultural places in the aftermath of natural disaster, conflict, and other extraordinary disruptive events.
In January 2022, WMF announced funding to support emergency response and restoration efforts in La Jalca Grande.
The destruction caused by the earthquake required a highly specialized response. The tower, which was reduced to rubble, requires immediate reassembly to ensure its restitution and prevent the loss of key elements. The remaining fragments and existing documentation offer sufficient information to allow for a complete recovery of the unique architectural design, the rough and irregular texture of its surfaces, and associated finishes.
A Plan for Restoration
The restoration work will extend to the church itself, with an emergency plan to stabilize cracks, stop settlement, and address other conditions. Current weather patterns exacerbate the need for immediate preventive measures that will protect the structure from precipitation. Additional interventions may include reinforcement of the roof, releveling of sloping floors, and the comprehensive conservation of the high altar.
World Monuments Fund safeguards cultural heritage around the globe, ensuring our treasured places are preserved for present and future generations.
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