Central AmericaChurchCost Rica

Colonial Church of Ujarrás

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HISTORY

In Ujarrás are the ruins of one of the oldest churches in Costa Rica, the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Limpia Concepción, built between 1575 and 1580, at the beginning of colonization by the Spanish, by Don Miguel Gómez de Lara, Governor of Costa Rica at that time. Legend has it, however, that some Huetares fishermen (an important indigenous group of Costa Rica) found a painting of the Virgin in a box and that because of this the locals initially built a straw hermitage in her honor, calling the image of the Virgin Mary of Queen of the Valleys. Over the years, the image has achieved fame as a miracle worker. It is said, for example, that when the English pirate Henry Morgan attacked the village in 1666, the Virgin Mary came to the aid of the villagers to repel the invaders.

WHY THIS PLACE

Having been built with weak materials, the church was eventually destroyed by a series of earthquakes and the continuous flooding of the Orosi River. The city of Ujarrás was evacuated between the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, by order of the Constitutional Assembly of the Community of Costa Rica. The authorities claimed that the climate was unhealthy and caused many diseases among the residents, who were transferred to the municipality of Paraíso. In fact, recent studies by the priest and historian Manuel Benavides suggest that the forced exodus was dictated by economic and political interests, since, in fact, the change did not improve the health conditions of the indigenous and mestizos at all, leading to the extinction of the population. The dilapidated church remained, then, as a witness to the history of this abandoned city.

CURIOSITIES

Like the Church of Orosi, it was declared a National Monument in 1920 and in 1980 it was submitted for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Every year a mass is held on the Sunday closest to April 14, to celebrate the feast of the Virgin of Ujarrás.

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