Located in the Marcapata Valley, the church of San Francisco de Asís was built between the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries and exemplifies the “Andean baroque,” a form of architecture that emerged from the intersection of Spanish and local culture during the colonial period. The rubble stone masonry is finished with an earthen render and capped with a thatched roof. For over 400 years, the church has been maintained by the community through the traditional ceremony of repaje. Every four years, the residents of Marcapata come together for a week-long repaje celebration where they replace the thatch on the roof. The polychrome murals in the interior depict Christian and pre-Columbian Andean religious traditions. The church has suffered damage due from natural aging and lack of resources for its maintenance; the roof structure has deteriorated, and progressive rainwater infiltration and the absence of appropriate drainage have damaged the murals. The transmission of the repaje skills from generation to generation is threatened by changing community demographics. The new Inter-Oceanic Highway connecting ports in Peru and Brazil, built by the Brazilian company Obredecht, passes through Marcapata, creating development pressures and changes in the landscape of the town.
2010 World Monuments Watch
Following the inclusion of San Francisco de Asis de Marcapata on the 2010 Watch, WMF and Obredecht are contributing to the development of a conservation plan for the church. The plan will be guided by documentation of existing conditions, analysis of erosion and deteriorated elements, and recommendations from conservation experts. San Pedro de Andahuaylillas, a WMF project included in the 2008 World Monuments Watch, has a conservation program underway and local authorities have taken inspiration from that project to help develop the plans for San Francisco de Asís in Marcapata.
The construction of the Inter-Oceanic Highway presents a new set of challenges for historic towns like Marcapata. At a time of change, training and awareness efforts are needed to renew community connections to heritage and promote development that is sustainable and sympathetic to the historic fabric of the town. As a symbol of collective stewardship and deep-rooted community traditions, the church of San Francisco de Asís is proposed as a vehicle for such activities.