Written by 5:41 pm In the News

Historic church gutted by fire

St. James the Apostle Church in Nurio, in the Mexican state of Michoacán, was destroyed by a fire this week.

The church building which dates to 1639 and which was built by Spanish missionaries, contained historical works of indigenous art preserved there for centuries. Its exterior walls are standing, but the roof and interior have been gutted. Majority of the interior had been built out of wood.

The fire broke out Sunday afternoon; no people have been injured.Emergency officials said they don’t yet know what caused the fire. Residents noticed around 6 pm that the church’s wooden roof and its inclined support beams were in flames.

Residents attempted to put out the conflagration but it had already consumed a large part of the roof and by the time firefighters arrived from Paracho and Uruapan the church was severely damaged.

The Mexican Secretary of Culture, Alejandra Frausto, took to Twitter to express her solidarity and sadness about the news:

“Devastating images of the fire in the Santiago Apóstol church in Nurio, Paracho district, Michoacán. One of the most beautiful churches in the world. We will provide all necessary support,” Frausto wrote.

Although the cause of the fire is still being investigated, many local news outlets are reporting the lack of available water for firefighters likely made the situation worse.

The Archdiocese of Morelia posted on its Facebook page, “we join in prayer with the community of Nurio, Paracho district, Michoacán, in its profound pain over the burning of St. James the Apostle church,” one of “the most beautiful and rustic” in the region where the Purépecha indigenous people live.

“The cause of the fire is still unknown,” the archdiocese continued, noting that the roof “was the most affected part of the only church in  Mexico with Novohispanic Purepecha art.”

In a subsequent March 8 post, the archdiocese said that the church, which “today appears practically in ashes,” was “an architectural jewel of incalculable value.”

The church had already survived two fires: one in the 1980s and another one in 2015.

(Picture Courtesy: Miguel Torres)

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