Wednesday, April 4, 2018

San Francisco de Assisi Mission, New Mexico

Front of the mission
It’s been several years since I visited Taos, New Mexico, but when I do, one place in particular draws my attention, the San Francisco de Assisi Mission. Situated south of Taos and a few feet back from the curb, the mission is a small, adobe building rich with history. Built between 1772 and 1816, every time I enter, I feel at peace.  
Rear of the mission
During the 18th century, Spanish and Mexican civilian families moved from Taos Pueblo to Ranchos de Taos to farm. To protect themselves from Comanche raids, they built their homes and work buildings out of adobe and situated them close together in a U-shape around a plaza, which became known as San Francisco Plaza. Steadfast in their Catholic religion, they founded the San Francisco de Assisi Mission, with the Franciscans overseeing the building of the church inside the u shape. Construction of the mission was completed in 1816, featuring two front facing bell towers with three white crosses adorning the towers and entryway. Four beehive shaped buttresses support the back of the church and two buttresses in front of each bell tower support the front of the church. Thick adobe walls surround the church, the cemetery, and the forecourt.
Original altar
San Francisco de Assisi Mission is the only original church to remain intact in the Taos area, and has been photographed, drawn, and painted by several well-known artists, including Georgia O’Keefe and Ansel Adams. Through the years, the mission has undergone several restorations, most notably in 1967 when all of the ceiling vigas and doors were replaced with reproductions. Every June, parishioners and the community re-plaster the adobe in a project titled The Enjarre, or mudding of the church.
After the altar was repainted
The interior artwork of the church is breathtaking, with the altar decorated in original Spanish woodwork and the wall behind the altar having been repainted in 1981. The paintings behind the altar are believed to be oil paintings brought to the mission from the Archdiocese of Mexico by way of Spain some 200 years ago. Depictions of the 14 Stations of the Cross adorn the side walls of the chapel. There is a balcony at the back of the church, but is roped off to visitors. Research led me to discover the Santa Fe Desert Chorale has held concerts in the church, but the author of the article does not know if the choir sang from the balcony, as he had never attended one of their concerts.
Whether you’re a history buff or a tourist, of religious beliefs or not, if your travels take you to Taos, the San Francisco de Assisi Mission is one place you don’t want to miss. 
The balcony


Kristy McCaffrey said...

What a great church. I love Taos!

Julie Lence said...

Hi Kristy: We haven't been to Taos in years, but it is still one of my favorite places to visit. I love the mission. Much better to see in person than in pictures.