High Road Churches
We spent the day visiting several of the old adobe churches along the High Road to Taos, perhaps an attempted antidote for Friday the 13th.
Photographers frequently focus on the buttresses at the rear of San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos. I’m fond of the detail framing the front doors, especially in morning sunlight. The parishioners lovingly maintain the National Historic Landmark church and garden. While interior pictures are strictly forbidden visitors are welcome to enter for prayers or to sit quietly and admire the carved corbels, front and side altars screens, retablos and statuary.
Just a few miles down SR 518 we find San Juan de Los Lagos. The small adobe chapel in Talpa has received a great deal of restoration in recent years. Bob has painted several versions of the Talpa chapel over the years. We’ve never had the fortune to see the interior, maybe sometime in the future.
Our third stop was Nuestra Señora de La Asuncion – Placita located off SR 75 in Penasco. Colorful door panels and blooming sweet peas add a splash of color to the earthen structure. Local dogs noted our arrival but proved non-threatening.
Detouring a few miles off the High Road route we visited Picuris Pueblo. As with most of the pueblos, visitors should check in at Tribal Headquarters and obtain a camera permit for a modest fee. Originally constructed in 1776, San Lorenzo de Picuris collapsed in 1989 from water damage. Pueblo members rebuilt the church by hand over a period of several years. Today a crew was working on the grounds. We were invited into the sanctuary giving us the opportunity to note details of carved beams and sturdy chair backs in a traditional cloud pattern.
By the time we reached the village of Las Trampas gathering clouds brought the hope for rain but dulled the photographs. Fortunately we’ve visited the stately San Jose de Garcia Church many times and have been able to capture images under clear blue skies. The church is sometimes open but today was not one of those times. The Las Trampas church and village are favorite subjects for Bob’s watercolors.
Chimayo was our final church visits for the day. First we stopped at the Santo Nino Chapel dedicated in honor of children. I remember when this structure seemed more pigeon roost than holy, an extensive renovation has transformed the chapel which is now filled with colorful contemporary art, wood sculptures and hand-carved Spanish Colonial furniture.
El Santuario de Chimayo is sometimes referred to as the Lourdes of America. Pilgrims arrive seeking healing miracles from the sacred red dirt found in a little side room. Walls are covered with testimonies, letters and poems of thanks, crutches, photos, hand carved rosaries and mementos.
When we arrived at Chimayo today nearly a dozen polished police and sheriff’s cars lined the narrow road. Was there a funeral? We soon learned a bit of local culture. This is Espanola Fiesta weekend. By tradition a Torch Run on Friday begins with prayers and blessings at El Santuario and ends eight miles later at Sacred Heart Church in Espanola. The escort vehicles were waiting and Fiesta Royalty in gowns, crowns and sashes were in attendance. “If the runner doesn’t make it we have no fiesta,” we were told.
I can’t leave Chimayo without replenishing my supply of “Holy Chili #1” from Carlos Medina. I add a dash to almost every main dish I prepare and Carlos is always an entertaining visit. We also made a luncheon pilgrimage to Rancho de Chimayo before completing our 120 mile loop trip through the mountains of Northern New Mexico. A perfect Friday the 13th.
Visit Art by Robert Yackel to view some of his paintings of New Mexico churches.