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San Jose de Gracia Church

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Taos New mexico United State
Taos , New Mexico

The San Jose de Gracia Church, also known as Church of Santo Tomas Del Rio de Las Trampas, is a church built between 1760 and 1776 in Las Trampas, New Mexico. Originally named Santo Tomas del Rio de las Trampas, the church is of adobe construction with a mud-plaster exterior, which is renewed periodically by parishioners. The church was reroofed and repaired in 1932 by the Society for the Preservation of New Mexico Mission Churches, led by renowned architect John Gaw Meem.

The church ceiling is painted with 18th and 19th century designs, and the interior is decorated with notable artworks of 18th and 19th century santeros. The annual feast day is March 19.

It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1970.

It is included in the Las Trampas Historic District.

San Jose de Gracia de Las Trampas mission church is located in Las Trampas, a Spanish colonial village established in 1751, set in a beautiful mountain valley south of Taos on the old "High Road" (NM76). Originally a lay chapel, San Jose de Gracia is situated on the original town plaza. The church was completed in 1780 and is considered to be one of the best preserved examples of Spanish Colonial Mission architecture in New Mexico. San Jose de Gracia de Las Trampas is still an active parish church and was fully restored in the 1970s.

San Jose de Gracia de Las Trampas, New Mexico, a National Historic Landmark, is located in the town of Las Trampas on NM 76 (the High Road). The interior of the church is only open Friday and Saturday; suggested donation.

It resembles a fortress for good reason.It was designed to withstand attacks by the Apaches and Commanches.This may explain the absence of windows, which are replaced by a high clerestory, and an unusual outside balcony, which may have served a defensive purpose.The interior of the church is whitewashed adobe, with a simple tempura retablo.The impression is austere, calm and modest.Robert Hughes describes its overall effect as 'springlike freshness'.It is listed as a 'must see' in New Mexico tourist guidebooks both for its age and the spirituality it evokes.

In today's materially cluttered world, our overstimulated sensibilities find repose, focus and aesthetic pleasure in clean lines and decorative restraint.Such was not the case in the middle of the Eighteenth century when Jose de Arguello and 12 families built the church.Spanish Mission churches and Mexican churches of the period employed all the ornamentation they could afford. 2 The life of the settlers was austere enough; at times of worship they wanted a blaze of color and gold, wonders of intricate pattern and narrative to exalt, entertain and instruct the soul.A Mexican or Spanish visitor would have described Las Trampas as drab and uninspiring.Las.Trampas lacks the Mudejar and Baroque tilework, twisted Salamanca pillars, rectilinear borders, murals, artesanado ceilings and geometric and biomorphic patterns that would have created a riot of interest for the worshipper.The beauty and simplicity we perceive at Las Trampas were not by design, but arose out of an economy of art and architecture imposed by poverty.As it was, Las Trampas was never able to support a resident priest, and had to rely on visits from Penitentes for religious Services.

And yet Las Trampas furnishes us with iconographical puzzles worth our study.Hughes comments on the 'daisies' 3 painted on the columns supporting the painted arches framing the portraits on the retablo.Daisies would be an interesting and unusual choice for an altarpiece.I believe they are in fact something more interesting.They are there for the same reason that the Penitentes marched with Christ’s dripping red oil 'blood'.Hughes looks at the Penitente blood obsession like a good anthologist, with unbiased curiosity and wonder.Let's pursue his lead.

New Mexico, at the time Las Trampas was built, was just that.Part of Mexico, part of Spain, Las Trampas was unseparated from the Hispanic world by border, custom, language or religion.More than that, the dominant pre-Columbian culture of Mexico, the Nahuatl speaking Aztecs, were related to the indigenous peoples of New Mexico linguistically and culturally.4 Although the Aztecs, as soon as they got settled in upscale Central Mexico, tried to disassociate themselves with their despised Chichimec relatives of the north, the Maya and other southern peoples never missed a chance to remind them of their dog blood.5

Central American trade goods 6 have been found throughout the American Southwest, and New Mexican turquoise as far south as Copan in Honduras.A sacred ball court of the Hohokam peoples has been excavated in Arizona.The Sun dance of the Ute peoples of the Southwest relates to Mesoamerican sun cults.Although the two groups were separated by time and distance, they shared a common language of origin and cultural context.Reinforcing these links, the colonists who settled Las Trampas came not from Spain, but from Mexico, bringing Mexican acculturation, Nahuatl speaking servants and mixed blood family members.It is no accident that the church is dedicated to San Jose de Gracia, the patron and protector of the Indians.Las Trampas must then be understood in the context of the culture of Mexico and of the indigenous peoples.

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