10 Incredible Churches Consumed by Water

The planet has a pretty good system for moving its water around – it’s been doing it for a very long time. But we humans think we have better ideas for what to do with water, so we go and move things around and make dams and canals and reservoirs and other objects of infrastructure to supply our never-ending needs. And unfortunately, those plans sometimes conflict with things like, you know, ancient villages and stuff. But judging by the examples here and many more instances of the same, it doesn’t seem to be much of a hindrance. All of the following churches have been intentionally drowned. But as drought and deluge persist, the structures emerge and sink in cadence with the whims of nature, providing an eerie foreshadowing for what the future of this planet may hold.

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St. Ivan Rilski Church: Zapalnya, Bulgaria

credit: Hristo Svinarov

This church was built in 1895 and was the center of the village of Zapalnya, a town dating back to the 14th century and which was famed for rose oil production during the Ottoman Empire. In 1962, everyone from the village and two surrounding ones was kicked out and the reservoir was built; all that remains are the ruins of an ancient church and fading memories of the scent of roses.

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Church of Saint Nicholas: Mavrovo, Macedonia

credit: Djivo Djurovic/TrekEarth

What a beautiful building. Built in 1850, St. Nicholas Church in Mavrovo, Macedonia did service until 1957 – at which time the area was flooded for a hydroelectric plant. As other churches in this collection, when water is in short supply, the soggy ruins emerge.

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St. Nicholas Cathedral: Kalyazin, Russia

credit: michael clarke stuff

In the late 1930s Russia began efforts to modernize, including an intensive program to widen and deepen the country’s rivers for the passage of larger vessels and for hydropower plants. One such project was the construction of the Uglich Hydroelectric Station in 1940, which created a man-made lake of almost 100 square miles of surface area that deluged two monasteries, one built in the 15th century and another in the 16th. Most of the submerged structures in the area were destroyed, but the iconic bell tower of the St. Nicholas Cathedral endures to this day like a beckoning ghost lighthouse.

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Shettihalli Rosary Church: Karnataka, India

credit: ಪ್ರಶಸ್ತಿ

Constructed by French Missionaries in the 1860s, this striking church which once stood on the banks of the Hemavathi River is now semi-submerged thanks to the Gorur dam which works to fill the Hemavathi Reservoir. Some 28 villages were evacuated and abandoned to make way for the project, now all but the glorious gothic ruins of the church remain visible.

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Church of Lake Reschen: Graun, Italy

credit: Zairon

High in the Alps near the Italian-Swiss border once existed two beautiful towns, Graun and Reschen, that had been occupied since Roman times. In the late 1930s, the local power company schemed a plan to build a dam that would connect two lakes, but flood the valley between them. Despite resistance from the valley's denizens, the power company eventually won and the ancient towns were sent to swim with the fishes in 1950. Below the surface the ruins of some 163 structures remain, but to the eye little can be seen save for bell tower of Graun's 14th-century church, as pictured above.

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The toxic church: Geamana, Romania

credit: salajean

This one's a doozy. Until as recently as 1978, the Romanian village of Geamana housed a lively community thriving in a lush valley. The area's tragic flaw? A nearby abundance of copper reserves. Reportedly, Nicolae Ceausescu decided that the valley made for a perfect receptacle for the toxic waste byproducts created in the gobbling up all that rich ore, and was thus flooded and turned into a giant sludge pond. Residents were forced to move as their land became a huge watery dump; the lake remains an eerie toxic rainbow soup ornamented with the lone steeple of the town's former church.

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San Romà de Sau: Catalonia, Spain

credit: Josep Enric/Flickr

What to do with a 1,000-year-old city replete with ancient Roman ruins that's in the way of a government-proposed reservoir? Sink it! Such is the the sad story of San Romà de Sau, a Spanish village that had been inhabited for a millennium and was intentionally flooded in the 1960s . While the ruins of the three-story church can be seen throughout the year, when the water levels dip the bones of the old city rise up as well.

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Church of the Nativity: Krokhino, Russia

credit: Christine McIntosh via Flickr

Four hundred miles north of Moscow there used to be a lively little village called Krokhino on the banks of the Sheksna River. In 1964, during the construction of the deep-water Volga-Baltic Canal, the water level in the Sheksna River was artificially raised, flooding the village and surrounding areas. All that remained was the towering church – and might be gone entirely by now if not for a gallant group of volunteers doing triage on the structure in hopes of saving it.

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Drowned church of Potosí: Táchira, Venezuela

credit: Juan Tello/Flickr

Potosí was a Venezuelan town in the western state of Táchira. The town was deliberately flooded by the Venezuelan government in 1985 for the La Honda dam, part of the Uribante-Caparo hydroelectric complex. The water is normally deep enough that only the highest part of the town remain in view, the steeple of the church. Remarkably, in 2010 the town emerged from its watery fields for the first time since its deluge thanks to drought brought on by El Niño.

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Old Petrolandia church: Pernambuco, Brazil

credit: Andre Estima/Flickr

Before the Luiz Gonzaga Dam (formerly known as the Itaparica Dam) was started in Pernambuco, Brazil in 1979, 40,000 people were relocated against their wishes – 10,000 from urban areas and 30,000 rural inhabitants, mostly indigenous Tuxá. Sixteen miles upstream from the dam was the town of Petrolândia, just one of the casualties lost in the creation of the ensuing hydroelectric power generation that supports a 1,479 megawatts (1,983,000 hp) power station. The people are gone, the church remains, a strange souvenir of things that once were.