San Francisco de Asís Mission Church

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San Francisco de Asís Mission Church
San Francisco de Asis Mission Church.JPG
Mission Church of Ranchos de Taos
AffiliationFranciscans Roman 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; -105.60841388888889Coordinates: 36°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 church on the main plaza of Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico. Built between 1772 and 1816 when New Mexico was part of the Vice-Royalty of New Spain, it is one of the finest extant examples of a Spanish Colonial New Mexico mission church, and is a popular subject for photographers. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970.[2]


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] Construction on this church began around 1772[4][5] and was completed in 1815[4] by 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 instances of restoration, including in 1967, when all of the ceiling vigas and doors were replaced with reproductions.[3] The community and parishioners gather annually to replaster 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]


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 (1 January 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". Retrieved 2019-03-05.
  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 2013-12-15. Retrieved 2012-12-10.
  12. ^

Further reading[edit]

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