VIEJO SAN ACACIO —The oldest standing church structure in Colorado was visited by evil between Dec. 13 and 15 and the Costilla County Sheriff is investigating.
La Capilla de Viejo San Acacio mission was built by Hispanic settlers between 1853 and 1856 and dedicated to Saint Acacius, who is said to appeared and saved settlers from warring tribes.
The sheriff received a report at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 15 of damage at the mission church at San Acacio Viejo that someone had entered the church, broken religious statues, damaged a gate and moved items around within the church.
Costilla County Deputy Karina Garcia responded and learned caretakers left the church unlocked between Dec. 13 and 15 so finance officers from the Catholic Diocese of Pueblo could photograph damaged flooring and seek help for repairs.
The caretakers returned and discovered the damage.
La Capilla de Viejo San Acacio has seen continuous community use for more than 150 years. Every summer a priest from Sangre de Cristo Parish conducts Mass at each local mission church in the valley, including San Acacio. Mass is still conducted in Spanish.
The community gathers at the church during Holy Week before traveling to the parish church in San Luis for religious observances. Each year on May 8, the town celebrates the feast day of Santo Acacio by forming a procession, carrying an image of the saint, and gathering for Mass at the church before holding a fundraising dinner at the community hall.
Rick building history
By 1896 the Capilla de Viejo San Acacio was showing signs of deterioration. Father Samuel García oversaw major alterations to the building between 1904 and 1912. Influenced by the design of the 1880s Iglesia de la Sangre de Cristo in San Luis, he added a pitched roof of tin and wood as well as a new cupola and bell. He also replaced the original earth floor with wooden planks and put in a new choir loft.
In 1939, Father Onofre Martorell stabilized the church’s walls and added a layer of concrete stucco to the exterior. The adobe walls received even more support in the 1950’s, when concrete buttresses were added on both sides of the entrance.
In 1989 Father Patrick Valdez initiated a major restoration of the church under the supervision of the local architectural consulting firm Valdez & Associates.
The church was next to the community irrigation ditch and had no foundation, so moisture seeped into the walls. After cement stucco was added to the exterior in the early 20th century, that moisture could no longer evaporate naturally and was starting to destroy the original adobe walls, which were overburdened with the weight of the roof, bell, and chimney.
The extensive restoration project graded the site to allow water to drain properly, underpinned the church with a concrete foundation, added a new support structure of beams and buttresses to reduce the load on the adobe walls, and replaced the cement stucco with mud plaster to allow for better evaporation from the walls.
Today, the criminal mischief needs to be repaired.
If anyone has any information regarding this incident please contact the Sheriff’s Office at 719-672-0673, Dispatch at 719-589-5807, or Crime Stoppers at 719-589-4111.