The Best Mysterious
of "New Mexico's Best"
de Taos-once a community separate from Taos that now is beginning
to merge into it-generations of visitors have been captivated
by the 19th-century religious painting by Henri Ault
called The Shadow of the Cross, which hangs
in the offices of the historic San Francisco de Asis Church.
lights are turned off, the ghostly image of a cross appears above
the shoulder of Jesus. When the lights go on, the cross disappears.
The painting was made before radium or luminescent paints were
in use, and researchers have been unable the glow in scientific
terms. The devout, meanwhile, attribute its presence to spiritual
sources. You decide.
de Asis-commonly known as the Ranchos de Taos Church-was
built in 1772 and became famous during the 1930s, after New Mexico
artist Georgia O'Keeffe used it as the subject for several paintings.
The structure's massive windowless adobe walls, wide buttresses
and tall bell towers make it a favorite subject for photographers,
especially as the light and shadows shift along its mud-brown
surfaces in early morning and late afternoon. Ansel Adams and
Laura Gilpin are among those who have captured the church's massive
shape and somber shading.
is a work of art," says acclaimed photographer Paula Riff. ""It's
my favorite adobe structure in all of New Mexico."
the church are many old paintings and retablos (painted
wooden altar pieces), as well as a huge cedar carving of St. Francis
of Assisi. Visitors are welcome, but remember that this is an
active church where services are still conducted.
You Go: The St. Francisco de Asis Church (505-758-2754)
is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It's in St. Francis Plaza,
4 miles south of Taos on US 84 (NM 68). A slide show and lecture
describing the place are presented several times a day in the
church office, where there's also a gift shop. Admission is free
except for large groups ($1 per person).
Mahler is author of "New Mexico's Best" and several other
books. A journalist and photographer as well, he specializes in
travel writing. A longtime resident of New Mexico, he resides
in Santa Fe.
a full listing of Richard Mahler's books, and to place orders
for them, visit Amazon.com.