Everyone’s heard about the Spanish missions in California. But did you know that some of the missions in New Mexico predate those in California by over 100 years?
The missions here are on the sites of pueblos, because the goal of Franciscan friars was to convert Native Americans to Christianity and reduce resistance to the arrival of Europeans. These religious outposts were mostly built in the 16
th and 17 th centuries throughout New Mexico. Due to the age of the structures, some are now in ruins while others remain well-preserved. Regardless of their condition, the following 10 New Mexican missions are loaded with history.
1. Mission San Agustín de la Isleta
This mission church is believed to have been constructed in 1613. During the course of the Pueblo Revolt, everything save the nave and walls sustained damage. However, the structure was extensively repaired which makes this one of the oldest churches in the country. The Pueblo of Isleta is located about 15 miles south of Albuquerque.
2. Mission San Esteban del Rey de Acoma
The mission at Acoma Pueblo perches high on a mesa. You need to take an official tour to view this building, which has 10-foot thick walls. Its construction began in 1629 but was only finished in the 1640s. Acoma Pueblo lies
60 miles west of Albuquerque.
3. San Francisco de Assisi Mission
This mission in Ranchos de Taos was built later than many of the others on this list - between 1772 and 1816. Every year, locals gather to re-mud the church with a blend of mud and straw. This building has been photographed by Ansel Adams and painted by Georgia O'Keeffe.
4. Mission Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles de Porciúncula de los Pecos
This mission is part of Pecos National Historical Park. Although in ruins, the church, constructed between 1617 and 1620, was obviously once imposing. That's appropriate given that this pueblo was the biggest in New Mexico for a time. Pecos National Historical Park is located about 26 miles north east of Santa Fe.
5. San Miguel Mission
There are two San Miguel Missions in New Mexico. This one is in Socorro. The current mission church here was built between 1615 and 1626 to replace an earlier structure on the same site. According to rumor, when news of the Pueblo Revolt reached Socorro, several solid silver items (including a communion rail) were buried for safekeeping. As far as anyone knows, these objects remain underground to this day.
6. Mission San José de Laguna
The mission on Laguna Pueblo was constructed at the end of the 17th century. It actually served as a stable during the Pueblo Revolt but was repaired in the 1930s. Laguna Pueblo is situated
east and slightly north of Grants.
7. San Miguel Mission
Hailed as the oldest church in the nation, the San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe is thought to have been built in 1610. Following the Pueblo Revolt, Native Americans kept control of Santa Fe for 12 years, during which time this church was used as a kiva. Damage from the Pueblo Revolt was repaired in 1710.
8. Mission San Gregorio de Abó
During the 17th century, Franciscan missionaries arrived in the Salinas Valley and put Native American women and children to work building churches.
The Salinas National Monument consists of three sites near Mountainair. The San Gregorio Mission constructed at Abó showcased advanced architectural techniques for the time.
9. Mission San Isidro and Mission San Buenaventura de Humanas (also called Gran Quivira)
This is the largest of the missions. Mound 7 - the one totally excavated structure - contains 226 rooms!
10. Mission Nuestra Señora de Purísima Concepción de Quarai
Work began on this church in 1627 and was finished in 1632. Bizarrely, given the objective of the Spanish missions, this structure contained a square kiva.