Finding the Heart of Northern New Mexico in its Adobe Chapels

Posted by Janet Webb – January 1, 2017

Every village in northern New Mexico has a community chapel. If it is true that generations of Taos residents have considered the Land to be the wellspring of their faith, it follows that these community chapels are the embodiment of their spirituality. These churches are literally built of the earth – mud, straw, and wood harvested from the mountains and mesas surrounding the communities of northern New Mexico.

In 2011, my company, Webb Design Inc, was given the opportunity to create a visitors guide to the historic churches of northern New Mexico. Our clients were Taos County Lodgers Association and the Town of Taos. Historian Liz Cunningham researched the topic and selected 24 chapels that melded 500 years of multicultural influences in their architecture. All are still in use by the residents of their villages. Liz wrote the text and curated 24 historic photographs to accompany her writing,

The final product is this 32-page printed booklet, HISTORIC CHURCHES of Taos and Northern New Mexico (1.9MB, 32 pages), available at Taos Visitors Center and a number of Taos hotels and museums. The guide focuses on 24 churches, beginning with the oldest of all New Mexico churches, Santa Cruz de la Cañada in Española, and ending at Sagrado Corazon in Costilla, just south of the Colorado border.

Before the guide went to press, I spent two weekends driving around northern New Mexico to personally visit and photograph each church and check that our driving directions for visitors were accurate. It happened to be April and the weekends were Palm Sunday and Easter so many of my photos include holy week iconography.

As another new year begins, I share images of some of these churches with a suggestion to discover or revisit them personally. Map included! I find the structures a reminder of what a gift it is to live in, and share the treasures of, northern New Mexico.

Happy New Year, all! JW


Talpa Chapel at Christmas with Los Comanches by Kate Cartwright
Talpa Chapel on Palm Sunday, 2011, photo by Janet Webb


Santa Cruz de la Cañada near Espanola in 1908, photo by Alfrd V Kidder.


Santa Cruz de la Cañada in 2011 by Janet Webb


San Francisco de Asís Church, n.d. from the Historical Society of New Mexico Collection, NM State Records
San Francisco de Asis Church, Good Friday 2011, by Janet Webb

Sources of more information on the churches of Taos:
Harwood Museum of Art Hispanic Traditions Collection
Archdiocese of Santa Fe
Millicent Rogers Museum Hispanic Arts
New Mexico History Museum
Kate Cartwright Blog about Los Comanches
Mark Goebel’s New Mexico Churches Gallery


San Geronimo Church at Taos Pueblo

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