San Cristobal de Las Casas: With the representation of the Ministry of Culture of the Government of Mexico, Alejandra Frausto, the anthropologist Diego Prieto, general director of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), delivered the Temple of San Nicolás Tolentino and its associated personal property to the Chiapas community, which were damaged by the 2017 earthquakes.
Through a statement, the head of INAH recalled that, to date, in Chiapas 60 of the 119 historic buildings damaged by the 2017 earthquakes have been restored. The delivery of this temple “confirms that thanks to a collaboration agreement and with the support of the local Ministry of Works, 26 of the 59 missing properties will be executed with greater force and speed ”.
Authorities recognized the invaluable support of the Advisory Council of the Centro Histórico AC, in San Cristobal de Las Casas and the INAH Chiapas Center, headed by Juan José Solórzano, and the team of restorers who carried out the work; and they made a call to move forward, working together and in a coordinated manner, in the task and commitment to recover the vast historical-religious heritage of this state.
Located behind the Cathedral of San Cristóbal, the Tempo de San Nicolás Tolentino presented, due to the 2017 earthquakes, cracks in the west facade and several landslides, from the beam to the landing of the staircase, as well as in the union of the nave of the temple with the sacristy and the east façade. Its interior was also affected in the lower part and in the arcade of the choir, and at the junction of the walls of the nave.
During his intervention, the damaged parts were removed, the cracks in the adobe and brick walls were cleaned and injected – with chemical lime and sand solutions. In the larger cracks the trajectory was broken with brick staples with lime and sand mortar, and they were woven with the rest of the wall.
In the steeple-bell tower the pinnacles were removed and it was rebuilt with new material similar to the original. In the roof-deck and, in general, in the damaged parts of wood, missing parts were replaced with identical pieces of treated wood; Zinc sheets and rulers were placed to locate recovered and new tiles. Additionally, they were restored flattened with mortar and finished with a mixture of water, nopal slime and lime, and paint with mineral pigments.
Regarding the collection of movable property, it was identified that the baroque altarpiece, probably from the 18th century, was modified in the 90s of the last century. This sculptural ensemble contains four easel paintings and a polychrome sculpture in the center.
The earthquake of September 2017 cracked the central structure of the altarpiece, which was already weakened, which caused fissures and the loss of strength of its assemblies and joints. To this, it was added that, with the subsequent rains, water leaked through the front wall and the roof, which led to the appearance of stains on the cornices and the top, as well as flaking in its golden coating.
To address these situations, two cleanings were carried out: a deep one, to remove dirt and damage caused by debris; and a chemistry, for the golden coating. In the end, the structure of the altarpiece was adjusted in order to avoid the loss of decorative elements and those missing were replaced; chromatic reintegration was done with 22 karat gold leaf.
The tubular organ, built by Francisco Torres García in 1897, had damage to the choir section and, due to the debris that fell on it, there were detachments in flutes, pedals and other elements. Additionally, the wood was rotten, so a vaporization fumigation was necessary in an isolation chamber with high-density plastic.
Regarding the sculpture of San Nicolás Tolentino, also called El Santo de la Estrella, because it was tied to the altarpiece, it did not collapse. However, due to the falling debris, she lost some elements such as the phalanges of the fingers. This religious effigy was cleaned with gel solvents, cracks, fissures and missing parts were repaired with a patch paste, respecting the original materials; In addition, the lost phalanges were reintegrated by others made of cedar wood.
The polychrome shield that divides the sacristy from the main nave is one of the most characteristic decorations of the property. The image of the buckler was moderately perceptible as it suffered losses due to some runoff. Its restoration consisted of cleaning and fixing the colors to the substrate, since the paint lost its adherence. In the end, missing pieces were repaired and the color reintegration was carried out.
All these works, supervised by the restorer María Rosa García Sauri, from the INAH Chiapas Center, and carried out by a team led by the restorer Jesús Iván Gómez Murillo, were possible thanks to the determined collaboration of the Advisory Council of the Centro Histórico AC.