Taos County, New Mexico
Ranchos De Taos

The church at Los Ranchos de Taos is one of the finest specimens still standing of the early New Mexican church architecture, and it is to be hoped that it may long be preserved in all its essential features.

It is massively constructed of adobe, with two towers in front, the upper portions of which are built of wood, and each surmounted by a cross. The front walls on each side of the large central arched doorway are sloped outside from the top to the bottom so as to form buttresses to strengthen the building and also add to the architectural effect. On one side of the rear, with an entrance from the chancel, is an addition about twenty feet square. The main body of the church measures 108 feet in length, inside; to which should be added the thickness of the walls. The vigas of the ceiling are all sustained by carved supports imbedded in the walls, and some of the vigas themselves are ornamented by carving.

The understanding among those best informed is that this church was built in the year 1772, and certainly, judging from appearances, it is entitled to that much of antiquity. The altar is comparatively new, in the modern French style, but the reredos behind the altar has not been modernized and apparently has remained unchanged from the time of the building of the church. It includes eight pictures of saints painted on canvas. On the north side is another reredos containing eight pictures painted on wood, and of native New Mexican workmanship. These, as well as some others on the south side, have been whitewashed over the paintings at some remote period, and the marks of that covering are not yet entirely removed. In the chancel is a large statue of Christ, which is evidently of great age. The church and the adjoining rooms are full of smaller objects of interest, less changed by the spirit of innovation than in most of the old churches, and consequently well worthy of the attention of the tourist.

No traveler who is visiting Taos and its wonderful pueblo should fail to see this church, as well as the whole town of Los Ranchos. Originally it was the home of a number of Pueblo Indians, and a few of the old houses, showing the aboriginal style of architecture, are still in existence.

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© Karen Mitchell