Temple of Quechula emerges from the waters

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Photograph: David von Blohn/AP

The Temple of Quechula is an abandoned Roman Catholic Church located in the state of Chiapas, Mexico.

Constructed around 1564 for Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas, the church was used for around 200 years before being abandoned after a smallpox epidemic devastated the region in 1773–76.[1] The church lay unused for another 200 years, when the completion of the Malpaso Dam in 1966 created the Nezahualcoyotl Reservoir, flooding the remains of the town of Quechula and submerging its church under 100 feet of water.[2]

In 2015, a drought affecting the watershed of the Grijalva River resulted in water levels in the reservoir dropping by over 80 feet, causing the church to emerge again from the waters. It is the second such reemergence in recent years, a similar drought in 2002 allowed visitors to walk up to and inside the building.[3]

At 183 feet in length and with a bell tower stretching to 48 feet above the ground, the church is grandiose in scale.[4] Architect Carlos Navarete, who has studied the building, suggests that the church was constructed in anticipation of a future population expansion in Quechula, given the town's location on an important thoroughfare laid out by Spanish conquistadors. The growth in the area failed to materialize, however, and the temple, "probably never even had a dedicated priest, only receiving visits from those from [the nearby monastery of] Tecpatan."[5]


  1. Ed Mazza, "450-Year-Old Church Emerges From Reservoir As Water Levels Drop", The Huffington Post, Oct 19, 2015, accessed October 16, 2016.
  2. Alberto Arce, "Colonial church emerges from falling Mexican reservoir", Associated Press, Oct 17, 2015, accessed October 16, 2016.
  3. Mazza, "450-Year-Old Church".
  4. Arche, "Colonial church emerges".
  5. Ibid.