A multitude of buildings
A difficult task: evangelization
The end of the adventure
The Franciscans in the Colca valley in Peru
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The Colca Valley lies at the north of the Arequipa region, in the Peruvian Andes. There are 16 villages in the area inhabited by descendents of the Collagua and Cabana ethnic groups.
The evangelization of the area was conducted by the Franciscan friars, who travelled some time between the 1540s and 1560s the Colca region and established two convents, one in Yanque dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and the other in Callalli under St. Anthony of Padua, and a series of doctrinas, or doctrinal settlements, at some of the principal settlements in the valley.
It is believed that the first of them was Friar Juan de Monzón, who after strenuous labor of evangelization went to the Mission in Africa where he was killed. Friar Juan de Cháves and Friar Luis Jerónimo de Oré followed him later.
Today, in the valley, one can see some of the most beautiful and ancient churches in the country, adorned with murals and valuable paintings from the colonial era. The Spanish government is funding the restoration of several of these churches.
A Franciscan friar, may be Father Fray Laureano de la Cruz, related the story of the evangelization in the valley.
Geographical situation of the Colca Valley (in: Noble David Cook, People of the volcano, Andean counterpoint in the Colca valley of Peru, Duke University Press, 2007)
The Franciscans arrive in the Colca valley
“The populated valley called “de los Collaguas”, on the western side of the Titicaca lake and between the snowy peaks and the lake, stretches from north to south on a vast territory and enjoys a miraculously mild climate. It was populated before by Indians who, much more than the Indians of nearby valleys, practiced devilish superstitions up to the year 1560, when several Franciscan priests arrived there […] and were the first apostolic masters to penetrate the land, and they converted and baptized more than 30 000 Indians. The Reverend Father friar Gerónimo de Villa Carrillo, then Commissary General of the Indies sent his workers there in his zeal to convert the idol worshippers”.
(Attributed to) Friar Laureano de la Cruz, Description of the kingdoms of Peru with particular emphasis on the dealings of the Franciscans (end of XVIIth century), chapter 4, 1st and 2nd paras.
The Franciscans build churches in the valley
“In the valley called “de los Collaguas”, the priests who were sent by Father Gerónimo de Villa Carrillo to visit the Indians around 1560 destroyed many temples and idols and built in their place many churches dedicated to Jesus-Christ our Lord and his most pure mother […]. The adornments that these priests put in place in the churches have to be admired, and they keep the Indians in the state of devotion they first demonstrated when they adopted the catholic faith; this is what relates Father Córdova in his book 1, chapter 18: churches and missions run by the priests have for the most part the appearance of cathedrals, due to their décor and the munificence of their ceremonies […]. In the Collaguas, the convent of Yanque covers three missions: that of Saint-Anthony de Callalli three others”.
(Attributed to) Friar Laureano de la Cruz, Description of the kingdoms of Peru with particular emphasis on the dealings of the Franciscans (end of XVIIth century, chapter 4, para. 3.
The temple of Purísima Concepción (middle of XVIIIth century), in Lari, right bank of Colca Valley. The Franciscans built the original church and they led it in worship until 1584, when they returned to their monastery and left the doctrinas to the clerics of the secular clergy. When the Viceroy ordered the return of the Franciscans, the clerics refused to leave. On 10 july 1590 a group of Franciscan friars headed by Luis Jerónimo de Oré came to Lari and demanded the immediate withdrawal of the church. The friars poured into the sacristy and entered the priest’s residence. They rang the church bells and opened the doors, in an act of possession. But the forced restoration of the Franciscans couldn't last long and finally the church of Lari felt to the clerics.
The parishes in the Colca Valley were in the care of the friars of the Franciscan Order, except for the parish of “La Purísima Concepción” of Lari, which was in the care of secular clergy.
order of the father commissioner Jerónimo de Villacarrillo, the friars left
the valley in 1581, giving way to secular priests that took charge of
evangelization. This was due to under plans of evangelization, members of
religious orders were at first sent to deal with
that task, and then, with the creation of dioceses and the establishment of
workshops, they were given away to the diocesan priests.
A letter from Philip II to the Viceroy of Peru
“The Seraphic Order can provide proof of its zeal and of its genuine interest in the Indians by the respect and love that they have showed the Order, from the very beginning to the present (…). The priests of Saint Francis, after conquering the populated province of the Collaguas Indians, and having taught them the basic elements of the Gospel, retired to the convent and returned to religious life, leaving the administration of the missions to the clerks; the Indians were so upset that they complained and were heard by the catholic king Philip II, and his saintly and zealous Majesty consoled them by writing the royal letter as follows:
“To the Marquis of Cañete, my parent, Viceroy, Governor and Captain General of the provinces of Peru, or to the person or persons in charge of governing them. On behalf of the Caciques, chiefs and Indians in the Province of Yanqui and Laricollaguaz and its dependences, I was informed that since the beginning of their conversion to our saintly catholic faith, these Indians have been taught the evangelical faith by the priests of the Order of Saint Francis and, having noted the success that they met with, the Viceroy Don Francisco de Toledo instructed them to pursue their good work and to remain in these missions; he told the priests which villages to evangelize, ordered the number of priests to be settled there and the dime that each one of them should receive, which was quite inferior to what was given to the clerks. And once the Indians pacifically settled in these missions, the priests left them alone on the order of Friar Gerónimo de Villa Carrillo, the Commissary General, saying that they wanted to retire to their convents. Afterwards, several priests entered some of these missions and during the year when they were there, they offended the Indians greatly by mistreating them and making excessive demands to baptize them and get them married. And during the inspection by don Pedro Muñoz, Archdeacon of the cathedral of Cuzco in these provinces, he declared them to be simoniacal and gave back to the Indians more than 6 000 pesos that the priests had stolen during that year. The procurer of my royal audience for this city then ordered them to be judged and deprived them of the missions. And a decree ordered that the priests of Saint Francis should come back and tend to them as in the past, since the Indians love them so much that they gave them the land on which the convents were built. The Indians in particular request that, while awaiting my decision, these missions and parishes be administered by the priests of the Order of Saint Francis under the conditions laid down by don Francisco de Toledo, especially with regard to the new taxes, so that they are freed from them; and that the Commissary and the Provincial of the Order be requested to appoint the priests to the missions where none had been before. Therefore, after consulting with the members of my Council of the Indies and taking into account their opinions, it was agreed that the present letter should be promulgated in my name; I order you to examine the request of said Caciques and Indians and to give them what they ask for as needed. Done in Madrid, on 6 January 1594, by myself, The King. On order of the King our Lord, Joan de Ibarra”.
“By the present decree, the priests of Saint Francis came back among the Collaguas, on public order of the Marquis, as can be verified in the archives, and the Indians greeted them with great celebrations and were happy to be once again in the care of the priests who had raised them”.
(Attributed to) Friar Laureano de la Cruz, Description of the kingdoms of Peru with particular emphasis on the dealings of the Franciscans (end of XVIIth century), chapter 4, para. 4.
Restoration of temple San Pedro de Alcántara at Cabanaconde
The Agencia Española Cooperativa Internacional de Desarollo (AECID) undertakes the restoration of the Catholic Churches located in the Colca Valley. The AECID Colca Valley Project has the challenge of rehabilitating these structures so that they may once again be effectively used by their congregations, as well as become potential visitor attractions. AECID hires local townspeople in its projects in order to help instil a sense of pride in citizens regarding their collective cultural patrimony. Local youth are also targeted by AECID job programs, persuading them to gain expertise in areas like woodworking, art conservation, masonry, tourism management, and agriculture, and to remain in their home communities.
The Evangelizers of the Colca valley : Joan de Chaves
“Father friar Joan de Chavez was equally a great master in those times. He was a priest of Portuguese origin; he was the second son of the province of Lima where he came with zeal to convert these idol worshippers. He prepared for this heroic action by whipping himself strongly and by submitting himself to severe penance. He lived up to 100 years, 60 of which in the Order, constantly busy with preaching and converting the Indians, doing so fervently and not afraid of obstacles or difficulties. Naked and poor, he went through the provinces and gained so much authority on the Indians that they adopted the catholic faith to make him happy. He was unpleasant with no one, on the contrary he gave much attention to everyone. He went through the provinces of Pacages, Collaguas and Cajamarca in particular and converted and baptized more than 90 000 Indians. After much suffering, he saw death coming and retired in the convent of Saint Francis of Lima, where he soon met our Lord, leaving behind many examples of his apostolic life and miraculous action, which today is still honored on his grave by our kingdom”.
(Attributed to) Friar Laureano de la Cruz, Description of the kingdoms of Peru with particular emphasis on the dealings of the Franciscans (end of XVIIth century), chapter 6, para. 1.
“Those Indians had many huacas and idols which were worshiped, and taken as gods. The fathers, Friar Juan de Monzón and Friar Juan de Chávez, who were the first in that province, discovered a great number of these huacas and idols and burned them and threw the ashes into a river. On sunday, going about in search of the principal idols, they were in the plaza together to indoctrinate them and there were more than two thousand souls. The two friars were in great fear that the Indians might kill them because they were very unhappy that the idols had been taken away from them, and they understood that our Savior miraculously delivered them from this great danger, because the Indians did not harm them at all. In a pueblo called Lari, Friar Juan de Chávez had them carry the huacas that they had collected in order to burn them, and fifty or sixty Indians were loaded with them.”
(Anonymous, Memorial of the doctrines of the province of Collaguas, XVIIth century).
The church of Lari was built as an anti-seismic bastion and reinforced with solid vertical buttresses
The evangelizers : Luis Gerónimo de Oré
“The Father friars Antonio, friar Luis Gerónimo, friar Pedro and friar Dionisio de Oré were the miraculous workers of those times. These four servants of God were brothers, born in the town of Huamanga in Peru and sons of Antonio de Oré and Luisa Diaz de Roxas, his wife, encomenderos, feudal lords and citizens of that town. In the Order, they were sons of the province of the 12 apostles and brothers in exercising their virtues more than blood brothers; in particular, they were very eager to spread the faith and they were appointed by the Divinity to carry out such faith. They visited numerous provinces of Peru and were very successful since wherever they went, the inhabitants gave a thousand thanks to God when they saw the four united brothers, who were much admired because they possessed many virtues as well as because of their birth.
“Nevertheless, Father friar Luis Gerónimo was the best of them all, either because heavens gave him more opportunities, or because of the will of royal providence. In particular, he was the most gifted with languages, as his ardent desire to convert the infidels pushed him to preach in the local languages. He devoted many years to preaching, especially in the province of Collaguas (of which he was the apostle), going through all the villages with a cross in his hands and always barefoot. He discovered many huacas and worshipping altars, especially an altar made of bronze : he had it melted in order to create bells for the many churches he built. He wrote a series of sermons in the languages of the region. He established a Manual of Seven Languages which allowed him to translate catechism and wrote a life of Christ in verse, which the Indians liked so much that they learnt it by heart and put it into a song”.
(Attributed to) Friar Laureano de la Cruz, Description of the kingdoms of Peru with particular emphasis on the dealings of the Franciscans (end of XVIIth century), chapter 6, para. 2, translated by Chantal Burns.
Luis Jerónimo de Oré, born in Huamanga, Peru (1554); dead in Concepción, Chile, in January 30, 1630. He was fluent in Quechua and in Aymara, a specialist in native languages, and was appointed to compose and translate the books of the 1583 Third Council of Lima. He preached in the Jauja Valley and among the Collaguas in the parish of Santiago of Coporaque. In 1620 he was named Bishop of La Imperial (Concepción), in Chile. In 1598 his book “Symbolo Catholico Indiano”, was published in Spanish, Quechua and Aymara. He wrote "Orden de enseñar la doctrina Cristiana en las lenguas Quichua y Aymara" (Lima, 1598); "Una Descripción del Nuevo orbe y de las costumbres de sus Naturales" (1598), containing information about the Colca Valley; "Relación de los Mártires que ha habido en las provincias de Florida" (1617?); and "Manuale Peruanum ac brevem formam administrandi sacramenta juxta ordinem Sanctae Ecclesia Romanae cure translationibus in linguas Provinciarum Peruanarum" (Naples, 1607), a polyglot manual for priests working in Peru.
Map of the
church of Lari. The
church is in the shape of a Latin cross.
Early Franciscan chroniclers described the site as a sacred indigenous
center, and their texts referred to the destruction of some 500 native
objects. Sometimes called
the "Colca Cathedral" because of its monumental size, the 1758 structure had
severely deteriorated due to time, the elements, and regular seismic
Friar Laureano de la Cruz, O.F.M.: Description of Austral America and kingdoms of Peru with particular emphasis on the dealings of the Franciscans in the evangelization of that country, Pontifica Universidad Católica del Perú, Instituto Riva Agüero, Central Reserve Bank of Perú, Editorial Fund, Editora Logos E.I.R.L., Lima, 1999
(This chronicle provides a description of the various regions of South America in the XVIIth century, especially the sphere of apostolic activity of the Franciscans. It sums up the historic action of the Franciscans in these territories. Friar Laureano de la Cruz is the author of the chronicle about the Amazon; it is not known who wrote the rest of the chronicles).
(In 1645, father de la Cruz, Commissar of his Order in Quito, left and went east all the way to Putumayo, and followed its tributary rivers, worked on the lands of the Omaguas and set up missions there. Finally he reached the river Madera. On 24 December 1650, he reached Gurupa, on 10 February 1651 the Great Para, and finally the villages of Marañon and San Luis. After waiting for a whole year, he was able to arrive in Lisbon in March 1652, and then went to Castilla. Nothing further is known about his life thereafter.)
The choir of the church of Lari
Colca Valley by Mario Vargas Llosa :
"Those of us who live immersed in the ugliness of Lima sometimes forget the beautiful things of Peru. One of them is this southern valley, to the north-west of Arequipa, at which one arrives after scrambling over the peaks of the Andes and crossing the mesa of the vicuña from one end to the other. [...]
The Spanish occupied the valley in 1540, the year in which Gonzalo Pizarro established the District of Collaguas. But it was the viceroy Toledo who, by ordering that the dispersed populations of peasants be concentrated in settlements, gave the region the human profile which it has retained until our days. As a consequence of the ordinances of Toledo fourteen villages were established. They are still there, only a little less than intact, although horrible corrodated zinc has replaced some of the ancestral straw roofs on some of the dwellings of the more prosperous families (to speak of prosperity here, however, always seems a little obscene).
The almost total isolation in which these fourteen villages lived from colonial times until the beginning of the Majes irrigation project has preserved their original appearance. There they are with their main plazas, their streets laid out in a straight line, their churches with the high towers which can be seen from a great distance. And there are their lordly and euphonic names: Cabanaconde, Pinchollo, Maca, Chivay, Achoma, Yanque, Tuti. Although some have a coating of whitewash, the majority of the churches show the naked stones of their structure: the sun turns them golden at midday and reddens them in the evening; their bell towers are still the pinnacles of the area, from which the fields can be watched. They tell me that they have been less plundered than the churches of the villages of Cusco, Puno or Ayacucho; that the retables, altars, pulpits, frescos and paintings of the 17th and 18th centuries are still there. I was only able to visit the interior of the little church of Maca, which has, in effect, an intriguing altar and some interesting oils.
The secret of the conservation of these interiors is, probably, their sacristans, truculent, incorruptible men who let no one cross their thresholds except neighbors and people they knew. The priest of Cabanaconde denied me entrance with the argument that in order to visit the church one had to have written permission from the archbishop, neither more nor less than what is necessary to stick your nose in a convent cloister. When I tried to argue he warned me that no stranger entered his church because there were lots of thieves running loose. The sacristan of Yanque, on the other hand, slyer and more irrefutable, got rid of me by saying, I never open the church when I'm drunk. (He was.)" The Colca Specialist December, 4, 2008)
Fray Antonio Vásquez de Espinoza : the province of los Collaguas
"1392. Next this Province of Los Condesuyos lies the extensive Province of Los Collaguas, which is all thickly settled (with people and many villages). The Council appoints a Corregidor for its satisfactory administration. His residence is in the village of Yanqui, which is the capital of this province. It contains large llama ranches, which made it very wealthy ; it is well supplied with corn, potatoes, meat, and fish ; it has excellent silver mines. This province belongs to the Diocese of Arequipa, and its inhabitants are apportioned to the Arequipans and are under obligations to provide personal service (to its residents) for their mitas ; (and it belongs to the Diocese of Arequipa, like Los Condesuyos ; in these provinces it borders on Cuzco to the E., on the Diocese of Cuzco)." (Antonio Vásquez de Espinosa, "Compendio y Descripción de las Indias Occidentales", 1627-1629, Book IV, Chapter 52, Continuing the Description of the District of this City (Arequipa), etc.)
Lari village. Lari is perched on a shelf overlooking the Colca River, and the bell towers of its massive church are visible for miles.
The Collaguas around 1586
“Firstly, to reply to the first question from the investigation, this province is called Collaguas and is dependent upon the jurisdiction of the town of Arequipa. Two kinds of populations are found there, with different languages and clothing. Some are called Collaguas and have been called thus forever, and according to a tradition going from father to son, they believe that they come from an old guaca, or holy site, located on the fringe of the province of Vellilli, which is near their own: it is a volcano-shaped snowy mountain different from the other summits in the region, which is named Collaguata. They claim that their ancestors were all born from the side or the inside of this mountain and came down in the valley where they live today, alongside the river; they vanquished its ancient inhabitants, forcefully chased them away and settled there. Several fortresses called pucara in their language attest to this, they are built on the highest sides of the valley, from where they would have come to wage war. And since the volcano from which they claim to be born is called Collaguata, they call themselves Collaguas […]
“Long before the inspection requested by his excellency the viceroy don Francisco de Toledo, these Collaguas wore on their head a hat, called chuco in their language, which looks like a hat without any rim; in order to shape it they strongly tightened the head of the newborns to make it long and thin and as high as possible. This was a custom to make the head look like the shape of the volcano from which they originated. The law now prohibits such practice.
“The people of the Cavana province tell a legend according to which they settled in the place where now stands the village of Cavana, after coming down from a snowy and sterile mountain facing the village and called Gualcagualca, which provides water to irrigate their land when the snow melts. They say that they vanquished the indigenous peoples, chased them away from the village and occupied it. They also say that some of their brothers left the mountain of Gualcagualca to go to the cordillera and populated the village of Cavana Colla; they called their own village Cavana Conde to differentiate it from the village of Collaguas, since when girls are boys are born, they strongly tighten their head to flatten and expand it, which makes it look ugly and out of proportion; they keep it tight with woven white cords all around the head, and the head expands slowly. Thus they can tell from the shape of the head whether these girls and boys come from Cavana or Collagua. As I said, Collaguas have a high and narrow head and Cavanas have a wide and flat head”.
(Juan Durán, writer, on the order of Monseñor don Fernando de Torres y Portugal, Viceroy of Peru, and of the Corregidor Juan de Ullos Mogollán, from information gathered at the assembly of Caciques and Indian notables, as well as priests and Spaniards residing in the province. Geographic relations of the Indies – Peru, Library of Spanish authors, tome 183, Atlas, Madrid, 1965, translated by Chantal Burns)
Yanque, 2016, august 16, after the earthquake which affected the valley, the inhabitants stay outside
Diego de Ocaña, 1603
"Partí de la ciudad de Ariquipa a los 25 de julio del año de 1603 para el valle de los Collaguas. Volví a pasar en este camino otros tres días de despoblados y una puna muy fría y la segunda noche no pude alcazar la jornada y me quedé a hacer noche al abrigo de una peña, que mayor frío no he pasado en mi vida, porque hacía un aire muy delgado que me traspasaba el cuerpo; y el indio que nos guiaba no pudo encender lumbre y así pensamos aquella noche perecer.
"Otro día llegue a Yanqui, donde estaba por corregidor el doctor don Gonzalo Rodríguez de Herrera, el cual había venido de Castilla conmigo. Este corregidor me regaló mucho y en tres semanas no me dejó caminar. [...] Lo que hay en este valle son muchos pueblos de indios, a los cuales doctrinan frailes de San Francisco. A very large river passes through this valley, and on its banks are some admirable baths. The water descends from the top of a mountain, and when it mixes with the river water, it becomes warm. It is very comforting to bathe there; the baths are very healthful, and there are always in these baths ill Indians who take the cure. A house was built there, on the riverbank, and all is very well kept.
"Aquí se labran muy lindos cumbes y sobrecamas; y deste valle es la que yo llevo a Castilla, la cual me dio doña Ana de Peralta, mujer del corregidor. Es muy curiosa sobrecama; y porque en España vean lo que labran los indios, la llevo conmigo, por ser de buenas lanas y de finos colores. El temple deste valle es bueno, porque participa de sierra, y él es muy hondo, que para bajar a él se bajan dos leguas muy largas y la cuesta tan derecha, que las mulas llevaban las sillas en las orejas, y todos la bajamos a pie por ser tan empinada." (Fray Diego de Ocaña, Viaje por el Nuevo Mundo: de Guadalupe a Potosí, 1599-1605, Iberoamericana, Madrid, 2010, De cómo me partí de la ciudad de Ariquipa y de cómo llegué a la ciudad de Cuzco)
Baths of Chacapi, Colca Valley
Antonio de Alcedo, 1786
"COLLAHUAS, and Asiento of Mines of Caylloma, a province and corregimiento of Peru ; bounded n. by that of Chumbivilcas, e. by that of Canes ans Canches or Tinta, s.e. by that of Lampa, s. by that of Arequipa, and w. by that of Camaná. It is 52 leagues in length, s.e.n.w. and 16 in width. Its temperature is cold, from being situate in the cordillera; with the exception of that part which borders upon Camaná, where it is very mild, especially in the five leagues where its jurisdiction extends itself in the valley of Sihuas; the other five leagues reaching to the sea bordering on Camaná. Its productions are various: those of the valley are comprised in wine, brandies, wheat, maize, pulse, and fruits, especially figs, which being preserved, serve as nourishment to number of poor people. The other territories of this province are of the same temperature, though comparatively barren. It abounds in large and small cattle, native sheep, vicuñas, and some wild animals. The roads are dangerous, from the country’s being extremely unequal, and the greater part of it being a craggy ravine, over which labours, rather than to say runs, a pretty large river, which has its rise within the province. Her are many silver mines, from which great riches were formerly extracted, since they yielded 80 or 100 marks each caxon. At the present day they yield but sparingly, on account of their great depth, some of them being 200 fathoms in descent; they are nevertheless, worked with tolerable profit. The principal mountain of these mines is that of Caylloma, and it was through this mine that the capital was founded. There are also not wanting mines of gold, tin, lead, copper, and sulphur; but these, on account of the deficiency of resources, remain un-worked. The capital, as we have before stated, is Caylloma. Its repartimiento used to amount to 57,100 dollars, and its alcavala to 456 dollars per annum. The other settlements of the jurisdiction are, Tisco, Callali, Sibayo, Tuty, Llauta, Taya, Chibay, Canocota, Coperaque, Lary, Yura, Madrigal, Tapay, Yangui, Achoma, Murco, Sihuas, Maca, Ychupampa, Chabanaconde, Pinchollo, Huambo, Hucan." (Antonio de Alcedo, Diccionario geografico-histórico de las Indias Occidentales o América: es a saber: de los Reynos del Peru, Nueva España, Tierra Firme, Chile y Nuevo Reyno de Granada, Madrid, 1786/89)
The terraces of the Colca Valley
The Lari church, whose restoration was finished in 2003,
is the only one in the Colca built in the shape of a cross, with transepts
off the nave, and the only one with a cupola. It is also rich in murals.
These survived largely intact because they had been whitewashed with lime.
Restorers carefully removed the lime to unveil the hidden paintings.
Inside the church of Lari: a lateral retable, neoclassical style, anonymous, XVIIIth century, painted stone and stucco
The chair of the church of Lari, second half of XVIIIth century, carved and painted wood
The baptistery of the church of Lari
Above Colca Valley, the Sabancaya volcano (5,967 meters high) rumbled back to life on november 2016, spewing ash and smoke