Monday, July 3, 2017

Hidden Gem of the Taos High Road: Nuestra Señora del Rosario, Las Truchas NM

Nuestra Señora del Rosario Church exterior, Truchas NM
Nuestra Señora del Rosario Church exterior, Truchas NM
Las Truchas, named after the trout found in its streams, is one of the small historic communities of New Mexico's Taos High Road.  This 56 mile road winds through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains between Santa Fe and Taos connecting the tiny Spanish Land Grant and Pueblo Indian villages in its path.  Initially built as a walled compound, Truchas was created in 1754 as a buffer to protect Santa Fe and Rio Grande villages from raids by roving Apache and Comanche bands. 

Las Truchas' church, Nuestra Señora del Rosario, was finished around 1805 and is still used for worship in the summer months.  It contains important altar screens (reredos) by famed New Mexican santeros Pedro Antonio Fresquis, the "Truchas Master", and Rafael Aragon. 

The adobe church is small and narrow, with a single aisle and wooden beam roof typical of New Mexican churches. A choir loft is present in the back of the church.

Nuestra Señora del Rosario Church, Truchas NM
Back of Church showing Choir Loft, Nuestra Señora del Rosario Church, Truchas NM,

The main altar, seen in the photos below, was created by the "Truchas Master", santero Pedro Antonio Fresquis between 1800-1818. The santero style was unique in the Colonial world for reasons I discuss in my  September 9, 2014 post  "Understanding New Mexico's Santos". ( Note that photos enlarge when clicked to better show detail).

Main Altar by "Truchas Master" Antonio Fresquis, Nuestra Señora del Rosario, Truchas NM
Very top: God the Father- it is convention of place this image at the very top of altars.
Top row from viewer left to right:  San Juan Nepomuceno (St. John of Nepomuk, 14th century Bohemian saint), Our Lady of Carmel, Our Lady of the Rosary for whom the church is named, St. Francis, St. Gertrude the Great. 
Bottom row viewer L to R: St. John the Evangelist, St. Josep, empty niche, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Barbara.
The Latin inscriptions above the altar in the scroll-shaped pieces, Ave Maria and In Gratia Plena, are the opening words of the Hail Mary.  In front of the empty niche on the bottom row is a small bulto (statue) of the Crucified Jesus.

Bulto of Christ, Nuestra Señora del Rosario, Truchas NM

Two beautiful bultos of the Virgin Mary are located on top of the front altar.

Bulto of Virgin Mary, Nuestra Señora del Rosario, Truchas NM
Bulto of Virgin of the Rosary, Nuestra Sen1ora del Rosario, Truchas NM

On a small table to the left of the altar is a bulto attributed to the Santo Niño Santero, who was most know for his exquisitely carved crucifixes.

Bulto of Jesus by Santo Niño Santero, Nuestra Señora del Rosario, Truchas NM

On the wall the left of the main altar is a retablo by the famous and prolific santero Rafael Aragon, born in Santa Fe sometime between 1783 and 1790.  This retablo from viewer L to R shows St. Paul, Jesus and St. Peter.

Retablo by Rafael Aragon, Nuestra Señora del Rosario, Truchas NM

To the right of the main altar, and seen below, is another retablo by Pedro Antonio Fresquis, this one dated 1821. Top: Trinity depicted as three men, a Colonial Mexican convention that was continued in New Mexican religious art.
Second row  L to R: the Crucifixion, Our Lady of Sorrows
Bottom:  Our Lady of Carmel, St. Gregory's Mystical Mass

Retablo by Pedro Antonio Fresquis, Nuestra Señora del Rosario, Truchas NM

The Truchas church provides an opportunity to see images usually only found in museums (such as the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe or the city's Museum of International Folk Art)  in the setting for which they were originally created.  The retablos and bultos were not pieces of art, but liturgical art that was used in worship and very significant in the religious lives of the people of colonial New Mexico.  These images differ from the religious art you will see in other parts of the Mexican Colonial world for reasons explained in my Sept. 9, 2014 blog post.

It is difficult to visit the Truchas church since it is open only during the summer and then at limited times.  Special permission from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe is generally necessary for admission to the church and photography is strictly forbidden, except with special permission which this writer was fortunate enough to obtain.  During the High Road Art Tour, which is always the last two weekends in September, the church is said to be open at certain times but it is best to check before going.

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