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San Francisco de Asís Mission Church

Coordinates: 36°21′31″N 105°36′30″W / 36.35851388888889°N 105.60841388888889°W / 36.35851388888889; -105.60841388888889
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San Francisco de Asís Mission Church
Mission Church of Ranchos de Taos
AffiliationRoman Catholic
LocationThe Plaza of Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico
San Francisco de Asís Mission Church is located in New Mexico
San Francisco de Asís Mission Church
Shown within New Mexico
Geographic coordinates36°21′31″N 105°36′30″W / 36.35851388888889°N 105.60841388888889°W / 36.35851388888889; -105.60841388888889
Architect(s)Built by The Franciscan Fathers
StyleAdobe, Spanish Colonial
MaterialsAdobe Terra Colorado Exterior. Adobe brick laid up in adobe mortar with adobe plaster surface.
U.S. National Historic Landmark
Added to NRHPApril 15, 1970[1]
NRHP Reference no.70000416
Designated as NHLApril 15, 1970[2]
TypeContributing property
DesignatedOctober 2, 1978
Parent listingRanchos de Taos Plaza
Reference no.78001830

San Francisco de Asís Mission Church is a historic and architecturally significant building on the main plaza of Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico. Originally the center of a small Mexican and Indian 18th Century agricultural community. Built between 1772 and 1816 replacing an earlier church in that location. New Mexico was then part of the Vice-Royalty of New Spain. It is a fine example of a New Mexico Spanish Colonial Church, and is a popular subject for artists. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970.[2] It is a parish church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe.


San Francisco de Asís is located about 4 miles (6.4 km) south of Taos, New Mexico, at the center of the main plaza in the unincorporated community of Ranchos de Taos on the south side of New Mexico State Road 68. It is a large adobe structure, about 120 feet (37 m) in length, with a cruciform plan. An adobe wall extends from the back of the church and one of the transepts to form an enclosed rectangular area on the building's south side. Adobe buttresses project from several portions of the main walls, including architecturally distinctive beehive-curved buttresses at the ends of the transepts. The roof is formed out of adobe laid on planking supported by timber vigas, set in distinctive doubly corbelled mounts. The vigas are also more closely spaced than is typically found in other examples of Spanish colonial architecture. The entrance is flanked by a pair of bell towers.[3]


The mission at Ranchos de Taos was established in the early 18th century.[3] Initial construction began circa 1772[4][5] and completed in 1815[4] by The Franciscan Fathers; its patron is Saint Francis of Assisi.[6] It was the center of the fortified plaza, which provided for protection against Comanche attacks.[7] The church has undergone several restorations or subsequent works in 1850, 1916 and 1933. Including a thorough restoration in 1967. In 1967 a new roof was placed over the structure and all the ceiling beams (vigas) and most of the corbels were replaced with copies of the original. The doors were also replaced with copies of the original design.[3] The original sanctuary woodwork was left intact. The community and parishioners gather annually to earthen plaster the church.[8]


The church has inspired some of the greatest number of depictions of any building in the United States.[6] It was the subject of several paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe,[9][10] and photographs by Ansel Adams, Paul Strand and Ned Scott. Georgia O'Keeffe described it as "one of the most beautiful buildings left in the United States by the early Spaniards."[6]

The Taos Chamber of Commerce states that the building is "one of the most photographed and painted churches in the world".[11]

The church was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970.[2][3] It is also designated as a World Heritage church.[12]

Historic Photographs[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c "National Historic Landmarks Survey, New Mexico" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d Charles W. Snell (May 1, 1968) National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church, National Park Service and Accompanying photos from 1968
  4. ^ a b Hooker, Van Dorn. Centuries of Hands: An Architectural History of St. Francis of Assisi Church, p15. Sunstone Press (1996), ISBN 0-86534-234-2.
  5. ^ Ranchos de Taos. The Columbia Gazetteer of North America. 2000
  6. ^ a b c Charles C. Eldredge (1993). Georgia O'Keeffe: American and Modern, p198. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-05581-1.
  7. ^ Marc Treib (January 1, 1993). Sanctuaries of Spanish New Mexico. University of California Press. pp. 188–192. ISBN 978-0-520-06420-1.
  8. ^ "San Francisco de Asis Church | Ranchos de Taos Most Photographed Church". Taos.org. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  9. ^ 1971.16 | Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas Archived 2010-09-19 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Georgia O'Keeffe - Learning Archived 2008-09-16 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Pilgrimage to the Mission Churches" (PDF). Taos Chamber of Commerce. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 15, 2013. Retrieved December 10, 2012.
  12. ^ GCatholic.org

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]