Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitos

Up to now, I’d only been in the mountainous part of Bolivia, but from Sucre I took an overnight bus (all seventeen hours of it) north-east to Santa Cruz and then another bus (only six and a half hours) to the small rural town of Concepcion. This is a lower, flat, green agricultural area, with billboards advertising specific strains of maize by the side of the road.

Concepcion - church

Concepcion - church

I stayed in what I suspect is the smartest hotel in town (although still cheap by my standards) where I was the only guest, which made the breakfast buffet something between a challenge and a dare. Finding dinner was problematic though. Whilst every Bolivian tourist restaurant I’d seen made a point of saying they had vegetarian food, here it was rather different; pretty much everything sold in regular non-tourist places is based on chicken. On the night I arrived, Sunday, I had to settle for chips minus the fried chicken but the next night a restaurant with a vegetable and salad buffet was open and I was both happy and healthy.

Concepcion - side gallery of church

Concepcion - side gallery of church

Concepcion is the site of one of the six Jesuit missions covered by this UNESCO listing. They were basically the same idea as the missions I visited in Argentina and Paraguay, but founded later, in the first half of the eighteenth century.

Concepcion - mission cloister

Concepcion - mission cloister

These are also different in that the settlements were not abandoned when the Jesuits were expelled from the Spanish new world in 1767. Instead, the mission churches still stand on the main square at the centre of their communities. All but one of the six are built from wood and their style is an adaption of Catholic architecture to local traditions.

San Javier - church

San Javier - church

I visited the missions in both Concepcion and in San Javier, ninety minutes away by bus. They are similar, with moulded and painted plaster facades, spiral wooden columns and deeply overhanging roofs. The Concepcion church has undergone extensive restoration however and all the wooden columns at the front are replacements from the last forty years. Which isn’t to say the other has not – I just don’t know.

San Javier - detail of church facade

San Javier - detail of church facade

There wasn’t much choice as to Lego model – it had to be the church facade, so here’s my best attempt with the parts I have.

Lego Concepcion

Lego Concepcion

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