Macharaviaya – Parish Church of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación in Benaque
Parish Church of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnacion – Benaque
Benaque Parish Church is characterized by scenic beauty and power that it acquires its own image as defining the natural environment. This gives it a certain interest and lends it an air of a visual landmark defining the landscape and the distant image of the village.
For a long time it has been discussed that this may be one of the few remaining preserved mosque in the province and therefore we would be faced with a building dated around the thirteenth or fourteenth century, before the Christian conquest of this region. This view has been based on documentary support that endorses the use of the mosque as a Christian Parish Church in the years immediately following the Conquest:
“.. While it was the visitation and reformation of the houses in the alcayua (or alamiya) in Benaque, the inhabitants used mosque as a parish church, where they had images and heard Mass…”
In Books of Share-Out is mentioned the use of Benaque mosque as a Christian Church after the conquest.
The building is a rectangular single nave and has a tower which stands at the foot of this church with access from a staircase. Next to the main nave, we can find a longitudinal building in the original side of the Ambon, near the parish cemetery. At the foot of the church nave widens its side.
This space next to the low old choir was used as a sacristy, now is a part of the main building. Low down on the side of the tower, and old minaret, we can find a baptistery since the building has no more than three naves, no vertical supports such as columns or Pilasters can define and specify a style definition. Similar situation occurs with arches.
In the late 50´s of XX century the roof of the church collapsed. Only half of it could be repaired because of the poverty of the parish, therefore the high altar was placed under the choir at the foot of the original church and the head was walled in. The half of the building stayed outside, without any roof. This situation was until the eighties of the same century when the building was in ruins and was completely left.
The outside walls were deteriorating, however some interesting wall paintings found under layers of lime.
In 2003, the current frame, cover and perforation of external parameters were made in order to see some details of its construction. You can see the differences between the structure of the old mosque facing Mecca and the works that were made at the end of the nineteenth century.
Undoubtedly one of the most emblematic elements of the building is the bell tower, whose proportions and frame alternating bricks and masonry with reinforcement angles show the low side of the minaret. It is a hipped roof and under it the eaves is, made up of several lines of face brick around a convex lancet.