Pueblo Churches of New Mexico

I love photographing New Mexico. To me, it’s a fascinating borderline reality where the modern world and the old Spanish and Indian worlds come together. Stone and mud plaster churches, where the community gathers together every year to replaster the walls of their church. And the ruins, a sad but eloquent reminder about how fragile these ancient structures are. These humble structures are the very heart of the communities they serve and convey the essence of old world religion steeped in mystery and the transience of all earthly things.

The quiet remnants of the village of Las Humanas, now called Gran Quivira, only hint at the vibrant society that thrived here until the late 17th century. Consisting of three different ruins, Gran Quivira, Quarai and Abo, the mission churches were built within Indian communities around 1620 by Spanish priests. Abo, with it’s circular kiva in the foreground, is one of three sites that make up Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.

San Gregorio de Abo

Occupied since the 14th century, San Ildefonso Pueblo is one of New Mexico’s "living" pueblos. The pueblo contains adobe buildings, ceremonial kivas, a central plaza and a church built on the remains of a 17th-century mission church. Located 23 miles north of Santa Fe, San Ildefonso Pueblo is a flourishing art community known for their world-renowned black-on-black pottery with black matte designs.

                                                               San Ildefonso Church

Hidden high in a secluded valley is the smallest and most physically isolated of the Pueblos. This isolation enables the Picuris to withdraw into themselves and prevent intrusion from the outside world. Named Pikuria - those who paint - Picuris Pueblo is located 24 miles southeast of Taos in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Once the largest pueblo, today is one of the smallest Tiwa pueblos, with some 1,800 inhabitants. Like Taos, it was influenced by Plains Indian culture, particularly the Apaches.

                                                   San Lorenzo Church at Picuris Pueblo

At the time of Las Trampas establishment in 1751, much of northern New Mexico was largely uncharted and unoccupied by Spanish settlers. Remote Spanish villages in the new territory struggled with arid agricultural conditions in addition to the constant danger of raids from American Indian tribes such as the Comanche, Ute, and Apache. Despite these risks, a group of 12 families settled within the tall spruce and pine forest approximately 30 miles south of Taos.

     San Jose de la Garcia/Las Trampas

To see more of these Pueblo Churches visit my website or click HERE



  1. Wow, these are amazing. What time of year did you shoot San Gregorio to get that sky?! Looks like monsoon season in August. The black and white bordering on sepia really shows the artistry of what you have captured here. Black and white is so difficult, but the contrast here is masterful. Do you ever feel like you are channeling the spirit of Ansel Adams?! I love these old churches and have photographed a few myself so I deeply appreciate how stunning your work is. Thank you for this blog and giving us the background and locations. You have blessed us, as you have been blessed, with the sublime.

  2. Thank you Thea, I appreciate your comments. I photographed San Gregoria in January of 2013. The skies are always unpredictable and although dramatic thunderstorms are common during mid-summer, the true thunderstorms with thunder and lighting, heavy rain and strong winds are more rare in the winter.


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