The Watch

Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Cocharcas

Chincheros, Peru

2002 World Monuments Watch

The oldest church in South America dedicated the cult of the Virgin Mary, Nuestra Senora de Cocharcas is sited on a small plain on the eastern flank of the Andes, where the mountains descend into the Pampas River Valley. Cocharcas means “swamp’ in Quechua. The single-nave church, laid out on the plan of a Latin cross, was built in a traditional Baroque style, with high stone walls and a façade comprised of three architectural masses-portal flanked by two towers topped with four-sided belfries. A Baroque altarpiece with gold leaf and silver plating stands prominently above the main altar; a sculpture of Our Lady of Cocharcas adorns its central niche. Large canvases painted with sacred images still grace the sanctuary’s interior walls.

Although much of the original building fabric remains, the church suffers from exposure to the elements and lack of maintenance or inappropriate repairs. A technical report on the condition of the church has been issued and a plan for emergency repairs developed, however, funds for its implementation are scarce given the current economic climate in Peru.

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