When you arrive at the intersection of Rieles and Urmeneta in Coquimbo, Chile, you’ll be greeted by a structure that looks as it if it were an ornament bought at a craft market, fated to collect dust on a mantle-piece. The metal sides and rivets show their age but have otherwise withstood the test of time.
The Church of Guayacán began its life in France. Its design is the work of none other than Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, who had designed metal churches that were made to be fabricated in Europe and then assembled on-site in the French colonies. The galvanized iron was expected to withstand whatever weather the tropics could throw at them.
One of these prefab houses of worship found its way (after a side-trip to Belgium) to the town of Coquimbo, where it was erected in 1889. For a while, it served as a small Catholic hub, but then fell into disrepair and was eventually abandoned. Fortunately, the church was later restored in the 1960s and declared a national monument in 1977.
The town of Coquimbo seems an unlikely spot to find such an unusual church, as it is not nearly as well-off as the neighboring city of La Serena (though the fish and produce market is well worth an extended visit).
Know Before You Go
The church is usually locked up, but even viewing its outside is a fascinating trip for anyone in the area.