Architecture: New Mexico
Taos, New Mexico
(Interior photography prohibited)
Named for the Taos Pueblo patron saint, the St. Jerome Chapel is one of the outstanding National Historic Landmarks in the Taos Pueblo. Its symmetrical bell towers, stepped portal and smooth adobe walls attract artists and photographers from all over the world. Built in 1850 to replace the war damaged San Geronimo Church, the chapel's special hand carved vigas (log beams) and surviving decorative Spanish santos shouldn't be missed. 1
Evidence of the seamless fit between Catholic and traditional Pueblo ceremonies can be seen in the calendar of festivals for the year. For example, dances celebrating the turtle, deer, or buffalo are interspersed with dances honoring St. Anthony, St. Jerome, and the Virgin Mary. All of these events are considered serious religious ceremonies. Cameras are forbidden, and the Tribal Council asks that visitors render the same respect toward the dances and rituals as they would during a solemn service in their home churches.
The religion of the Taos Pueblo people is extremely complex, yet as many as 90 percent of them also practice Roman Catholicism, finding no conflict between the two forms of spiritual expression. St. Jerome (Geronimo) has been the patron saint of the Pueblo since the church dedicated to him was first built there in 1619. The original church was destroyed in 1680, rebuilt on the same site, demolished again during the War with Mexico in 1847, and restored again in 1850.
Two spiritual practices are represented in the Pueblo: the original indigenous spiritual and religious tradition and Roman Catholicism. The majority of Taos Indians practice their still-vital, ancient indigenous religion. Most (90%) members of the Taos Pueblo community are baptized as Roman Catholics. Saint Jerome, or San Geronimo, is the patron saint of the pueblo. 2