The Ranchos Church

This adobe church has provided spiritual and artistic inspiration
for Taos visitors and natives since its construction in 1815

"St Francis of Assisi church and La Fiesta Saloon each have a claim on the plaza at Ranchos de Taos. It is obvious that the church does not stand alone, but is integral to the community. Though the church and the village are historical, this image adds the symbols of contemporary society. The saloon's umbrellas, the basketball goalpost, automobiles, and speed bumps speak of a living and vital community and church. These symbols will change, but the church will remain."

Paul Logsdon

The Ranchos Church

Image © Jerry Jordan
"To Light Our Pathway" / Oil on canvas
Courtesy of the artist

A source of inspiration for artists, travelers and natives alike, the mission church of Saint Francis of Assisi, in Ranchos de Taos, has been worshipped in, painted and photographed by artists and travelers who have lived in or passed through northern New Mexico. Its mysterious sculptural form, created out of the indigenous building materials of adobe and wood, has been portrayed by more artists than any other church in the United States.

The village of Ranchos de Taos was settled by the Spanish in 1716. "The Ranchos Church," San Francisco de Asis, was completed in 1815 and provides one of the best examples of Franciscan Old World architectural ideals combined with New World building techniques.

The church is fortress-like, with adobe walls four feet thick and enormous buttresses. Light plays off its enormous sculptural form to reflect the change of line, time and space. The church's surface holds the community's history—generations of hands plastering and replastering the adobe walls. For many Taosenos, the church provides a place of worship on Sundays and holidays, for others it provides an anchor in the landscape.

The Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe published a book of paintings, photographs and essays in tribute to this New Mexico landmark. Spirit and Vision: Images of Ranchos de Taos Church includes 54 color and 37 black and white paintings and photographs of the Ranchos Church including work by Georgia O'Keeffe, Andrew Dasburg, Los Cinco Pintores, Ansel Adams, Laura Gilpin and many others. In the forward essay, Dr. George Kubler, Yale University comments:

"The magnetic attraction of the Ranchos Church is comparable to that of the Plaza de las Tres Cultureas, rooted in an Amerindian past, functioning in a Hispanic village, and drawing to its study those from throughout the world who value its expression of balance among different peoples coexisting in a tolerant tension. New Mexico may be a paradigm of the whole United States, and the church at Ranchos de Taos may express its complex balance."

The church itself is open to respectful visitors Monday through Saturday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. On October 4, the feast of St Francis is celebrated in the church and the village. Many of the old adobe homes around Ranchos Plaza now house galleries, shops and restaurants, so be sure to plan enough time to explore the community.

By Pamela Michaelis, founder of The Collector's Guide and former host of “Gallery News” radio show on KHFM 95.5 remote, classical radio in Albuquerque.

Originally appeared in
The Collector’s Guide to Santa Fe and Taos - Volume 9

Related Pages

Favorite Places in Taos article

Hispanic and Native Churches in Albuquerque article

Visit the Calendar of Events Search Page for complete exhibit and performance information.

LAST MODIFIED July 7, 2008

©2014 | F + W Media
URL: • Contact The Collector's Guide