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Mexican church still stands after volcano eruption

By Catholic Online
September 10th, 2010
Catholic Online (

Nuevo San Juan Parangaricutiro, in the Mexican state of Michoacán, is a small village near the Parícutin volcano. The city is called "Nuevo" or new because the original San Juan Parangaricutiro was destroyed during the formation of the Parícutin volcano in 1943. Along with the village of Parícutin, San Juan Parangaricutiro was buried beneath ash and lava. However, the tops of cathedrals in old San Juan Parangaricutiro still protrude from the volcanic deposits.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - San Juan Parangaricutiro  is located about five miles west of Uruapan and 10 miles east of the peak of Parícutin in central Michoacán.

The area first gained notoriety on February 20, 1943, a new volcano began to rise from a cornfield, erupting and slowly consuming two villages in lava and ash. Legend has it as Paricutin erupted, the San Juan Parangaricutiro church bells danced miles away.

It took a year for the lava to reach and melt the rock of the cemetery walls around this small church. The lava did finally flow over the graves, leaving the church tower and altar untouched. The Paricutin volcano continued to erupt for another eight years, but the small church withstood it all.

The townspeople were able to evacuate long before the lava reached the town, and no one was killed. They quickly began building a new church, the Nuevo San Juan Paragaricutiro, in a nearby area unaffected by the eruption.

Today, the original San Juan Parangaricutiro church still stands, halfway buried in solidified lava rock, with the massive cinder cone of Paricutin looming in the background. Climbing over the volcanic rock to see the church that survived the catastrophe has become a tourist attraction and a major source of revenue for the region.

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