An Afternoon Visit to an Empty Church

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church sits along the San Juan River in Northwestern New Mexico, photo by author

The Church

The church was built in 1920 and still stands on a bluff overlooking the beautiful, aqua green-colored San Juan River. It’s a small building, but apparently the congregation has moved away or now attends mass somewhere else. I just happened across this place last Sunday and was struck by the awesome locale of the small church. Not far away is the Navajo Dam and behind that is the man-made Navajo Lake, but if you approach this special place from the south, you would never know that they were there.

The interior of this church captures the afternoon light on a spring day with great grace.

Inside

In the afternoon light, the church interior took on an almost mystical air, as the intense Southwest sun filtered through the small window above the altar and illuminated the sacred space with sunlight. Fortunately, the camera easily captured this event.

 

A vase with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe sits in one of the church windows, photo by author

Our Lady of Guadalupe 

According to Catholic Online the Virgin Mary first appeared to Juan Diego, a 57 year old Aztec man in 1531, near present day Mexico City. Even from the beginning Juan believed in what he saw on the hillside, but the priests at the nearest church were not so convinced. Gradually, over a few weeks, more appearances by the loved Saint along with a miraculous cure convinced the church elders that the Holy Virgin was present in Mexico.

Here she took on the name of Our Lady of Guadalupe and her likeness, which mysteriously appeared on a Spanish tilma back in 1531, has been reproduced and copied all throughout Mexico and the Southwest USA, numerous times. Many churches of the region, both small and large, bear her name as does this small chapel built in 1920.

Edge

Niagara falls as seen from the Canadian side, photo by author
Niagara falls as seen from the Canadian side, photo by author

Edge

This post is all about going over the edge. This is something that you definitely do not want to do at this place, even if you are in a wooden barrel.

In this current election cycle, “going over the edge” seems to have become the norm. Perhaps, if some of the major candidates would cross the border and consider going over the edge from this viewpoint, they might think twice.  And then again they might not, for sometimes they appear to be in a self destructive mode.

Edge

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Frame

The skylight at the Mandalay hotel and casino consists of a web of frames
The skylight at the Mandalay hotel and casino consists of a web of frames

Frame

Actually this picture has one big frame along with many smaller boxes and subdivisions that make up a grid. in other frames are everywhere.

Frame

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Rare

This white dinosaur was spotted in the Gaspie region of Quebec, Canada on an extended bicycle journey
This white dinosaur was spotted in the Gaspie region of Quebec, Canada on an extended bicycle journey, photo by author

Rare

This white dinosaur (brontosaurus, I think) was spotted while touring through Quebec on a 15-speed Univega bicycle. I do believe that this creature is quite rare, because I have not seen one since, not even at Jurassic Park.

Rare

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The Most Photographed Church In America

Ranchos de Taos Church as seen from the back parking lot, photo by author
Ranchos de Taos Church as seen from the back parking lot, photo by author

Visiting the Ranchos de Taos Church

Yesterday, I had to travel from Santa Fe to Taos in order to pick up some mail and paperwork from my former place of residence. I rode the bus and since my errand only took a few minutes, I ended up with several hours to kill. I decided I would spend this time at this historic landmark located on the highway that heads back to Santa Fe. Funny thing that as a resident, I seldom went here, but now that I live out of town, I decided to go here, take pictures and make a few sketches of this iconic place of worship.

The front doorway of the Ranchos church decorated with two wreaths, photo by author
The front doorway of the Ranchos church decorated with two wreaths, photo by author

Where Is It?

The church is officially called the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church and it is located in Ranchos de Taos in Taos County of Northern New Mexico. Ranchos de Taos is a small Hispanic community situated just south of Taos at the western edge of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. This structure is in many ways similar to other Spanish missions situated across Northern New Mexico.

 

The Ranchos de Taos Church as painted by Georgia O'Keefe
The Ranchos de Taos Church as painted by Georgia O’Keefe

The Sculptural Properties of Adobe

Adobe is simply a mixture of mud and straw. Together the two materials combine for added strength. The elixir is easy to make and it used worldwide to create amorphous-shaped buildings, especially in dry climates such as the southwestern U.S. Most adobe buildings have to be re-coated every 5 to 7 years and as a result these structures can develop exterior walls that are quite thick and rounded in their appearance. This might help explain why the church at Ranchos de Taos has taken on its unusual appearance that makes the place so endeared by visual artists and curious travelers.

Closeup of the architectural shapes and the adobe material, photo by author
Closeup of the adobe material, photo by author

Approach From The Highway

As you approach the church from NM Highway 68, the first thing you will see is the large buttress form that still resembles the O’Keefe painting. To view the front side of the church that bears the twin bell towers and front entrance, it is necessary to exit the two-lane road and drive through the gravel and dirt parking lot until you reach the opposite end. This view, which is pictured below, looks very different from the part of the building that is adjacent to the highway. Perhaps, this arrangement has occurred because the church was built way back in the late 1700s, when local residents used different pathways to get where they were going.

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The front view of the Rancos de Taos Church, photo by author

 

The Blood of Christ

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The Sangre de Christo Mountains near Taos, New Mexico, photo by author

Winter Sunset Reveals A Colorful History

Back at the end of January I was standing outside my place-to-stay in Arroyo Seco, NM. Immediately the vivid violent panorama of the snow-covered mountains caught my eye, so I rushed indoors, grabbed my point-and-shoot digital camera and snapped off several photos of the towering peaks, just as the sun was setting in the west. The above picture features a mountain range called the Sangre de Christo mountains. For those of you, who do not understand Spanish, Sangre de Christo literally means “Blood of Christ”. The colorful handle was first applied by the Spanish explorers, who visited this part of New Mexico during the 16th century and took special notice of the intense color of the mountains, displayed as the sun set in the west and cast its rays eastward, illuminating the towering summits in the process. This natural phenomena is very similar to the “alpenglow” found in Switzerland.

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Taos town mural of Coronado on his journey along the Rio Grande near the New Mexico town of Taos, photo by author

Coronado On the Upper Rio Grande

Francisco Vásquez De Coronado was a Spanish explorer, who ventured into the southwestern portions of the United States in 1540, 1541 and 1542. His adventures took him to the Colorado River, many Native settlements in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Reportedly, he and his party of explorers traveled as far east and north as Kansas. The above mural can be found in the mountain town of Taos, NM and documents Coronado’s journey north along the Rio Grande, where he encountered many of the Pueblo villages. In 1542 Coronado returned to Mexico, but his footsteps were followed several decades later by other Spanish explorers.

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Another View of the Sangre de Christo, photo by author

The Sangre de Christo Range

The Sangre de Christo Range in the southern Rockies is quite extensive, for it extends from Glorietta Pass near Las Vegas, NM in the south all the way north to the Colorado Springs area, where the mighty Pikes Peak can be found. The above photo was also taken in the Taos area, but features a different group of peaks located slightly to the north.

Happy Mardi Gras

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Karneval in Rom
painting by Johannes Lingelbach (1622–1674)

Meaning of Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras literally means Fat Tuesday, though many Latin countries know the popular holiday as Carnival. No matter how you look at it, Mardi Gras is the day before Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. It is usually looked on as a time of celebration and revelry that occurs just before the Lenten season commences.

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Mardi Gras Day, New Orleans: Krewe of Kosmic Debris revelers on Frenchmen Street 2009, from Wikipedia, photo by Infrogmation of New Orleans

Mardi Gras Remembered

During the 80’s I resided in New Orleans and enjoyed every Carnival season, while I was there. Mardi Gras Day in the French Quarter was definitely a lot of fun, but celebrations occurred all over the metropolitan area. Except for the downtown madness, most of the celebration consisted of families coming out to view the parades. In fact, some of the best parades, such as Bacchus occurred at night on the weekends preceding the popular holiday. And of course the best way to view the festivities was with a group of friends, where you could form your own Krewe similar to the one pictured above.

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The Tulum archaeological site (Mayan) in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, from Wikipedia, photo by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

Ash Wednesday In Old Mexico

The religious holiday of Ash Wednesday follows Mardi Gras. In many places, it is time of sober reflection and attending church services. The first carnival season that I ever experienced was on a  Caribbean island located along the Yucatan coast of Mexico. I have put my rather bizarre experiences into a novella, titled Ash Wednesday In Old Mexico. Just click on the title and you will be redirected to the Amazon page, where it will be offered free for tomorrow, which is also Ash Wednesday.