Sunday, May 17, 2020

La Morada

As I’ve gotten my photo legs back, I’ve veered to landscapes with a man made or architectural element. The fact is that I’ve always preferred that. In Taos and environs we have a myriad of magical and historic buildings to photograph. Most are of the Spanish Colonial persuasion which is fitting since Taos sits at the terminus of the El Camino Real (The Royal Road) that brought the Conquistadors from Mexico 450 years ago. Some say the Royal Road stopped Twenty miles north of Santa Fe on what is now the Okeh Owingeh Pueblo near Española. One thing is for sure. The Spanish Colonial building boom happened around 1800. That’s evidenced by Saint Francis Church in Ranchos 1772-1816. The Martinez Hacienda completed in 1804 and today’s subject La Morada de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. It was was built between 1798 and 1834.

La Morada is near downtown Taos and abuts Taos Pueblo. It’s sweeping view of the Sangre de Cristos makes it one of the most important yet under-recognized sites in all of Northern New Mexico. It's where I want my Grand Hacienda. I know that.

But that dream is not to be. Taos Pueblo granted the land to the Hermanos Penitentes in 1798. From its completion in 1834 the Taos Morada was the center for the Penitentes’ harsh religious devotions. The brothers were penitents whose practices included self-flagellation and entirely too realistic processions of Jesus and the Cross.

By the 1970s there were few penitentes remaining but those who continue in 2020 are a zealous bunch who are rabidly protective of the Morada. They grudgingly tolerate visitors who are “respectfully” requested not to photograph, paint or video the stunning chapel and grounds. This despite a written 2005 agreement between the Catholic Church and the Taos Historic Museums that gives the public unrestricted use of the grounds.

There is a sign at the entrance gate with the request not to depict the morada in any way. Visitors have been known to be challenged by the brothers. One is stuck between respecting their desire to protect the place they see as theirs and your knowledge that it isn’t. It wraps a cloak of worry, even fear, around what should be unfettered appreciation of this extraordinary place.

Pueblo style architecture has appealed to me since I first saw in an Ansel Adams photograph of Ranchos Church in the forties.It was emblazoned on my brain when I saw it in person during the summer of 1958. Though not everybody is a fan as I discovered when I showed my portfolio to a gallery owner in Durango, Colorado a dozen years ago. She told me that she'd gag if she saw another adobe building. Happily I had two shows in the gallery in the ensuing years. 

But the soft shouldered structures covered with a hand applied porridge of mud and straw exudes an organic sensibility that never fails to entrance.


Steve Immel said...

This is a test comment. Some haven't been able to do so.

Anonymous said...

Love these photographs of sacred places.

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