To what inspires you or offers spiritual lift

Published in the La Vernia News on April 30, 2015

San Francisco Asis Mission Church

The beauty of the massive adobe walls and buttresses of San Francisoco de Asis  Mission Church near Taos, New Mexico, has inspired artists and photographers , such as Georgia O'Keefe and Ansel Adams.                             Photo By: Harry and Linda Kaye Perez

San Francisco de Asis offers spiritual lift

     Whenever we travel, we try to find a unique church to attend, and we have found some unusual ones in place and languages we didn’t expect. We once came upon a tiny church in the middle of nowhere, while on a camping trip. On the unlocked door was a sign that read, “Sunday Mass at 11:00 am”.  We went inside, took a seat on one of the four pews and waited. Shortly before 11:00, a priest appeared at the door with a suitcase in hand. He proceeded to set up the alter and offered mass for us and our children. What an experience.

Everyday Journeys

  Harry and Linda Kaye Perez

     Similarly, we recently stumbled onto the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church in the Archdioceses of Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is said this church is one of the most photographed in New Mexico and rightfully so. This massive adobe structure, built between 1772 and 1816, is located in a small village just south of Taos on State Highway 68. The Spanish Colonial design includes arched entrances, beautiful courtyards and two bell towers. In 1970 this church, which is still an active parish, was declared a National Historic Landmark and also a World Heritage Church.

A Labor of Love

      The beauty and history of this place can only be rivaled by the dedication of both parishioners and total strangers who come together during the first two weeks of June each year to “re-mud” a new layer of adobe on the outer walls, including the courtyard enclosures. Without this painstaking process, the adobe will deteriorate, eventually dissolve, and be washed away by the elements.

      The same process has been used for centuries. Clay, sand, straw and water are hand mixed in small batches and a new layer of adobe is applied on the outside surfaces. A fine mixture of water and sand is then applied and buffed with a sheepskin to a smooth and brilliant finish.

Step 2 Re-mudding

     We felt very fortunate to witness this first hand and speak with many of the volunteers. One woman we spoke with has been doing this every year since she was a child and another was not a parishioner nor even a resident of the area, but had happened onto the process, as we had, and then returned year after year to be a part of this beautiful tradition.

Taken Aback

   Many people stop as they are driving along Highway 68 and snap a quick picture then continue on their way. It appeared they did not realize that they were only looking at the back of the church; the front faces the old road to Taos, part of the Old Santa Fe Trail. It is necessary to park and walk along the side to get a good look at the magnificent front and courtyard.

      Artist Georgia O’Keefe who created four paintings of this Mission remarked that it was “one of the most beautiful buildings left in the United States by the early Spaniards.”  

     Photographer, Ansel Adams, who compiled a book of photographs entitled Taos Pueblo in 1930, used his photograph of San Francisco de Asís Mission Church as his signature image. Captivated by its massive adobe walls and buttresses that created contrast between sunlight and shadows, he once said, “They seem an outcropping of the earth rather than merely an object constructed upon it.”

View of the Back during re-mudding process

     It continues to be a source of inspiration not only for parishioners, artists and photographers, but also for those of us who can just stand and look and absorb its beauty.             

To Find Ou More

San Francisco de Asis Mission Church 60 St Francis Plaza,   Ranchos de Taos, NM Phone: (575) 751-0518


Step 1-Mixing the Adobe

   © Harry Perez 2012