Friday, October 7, 2016


We drove south from Albuquerque to visit the mission ruins at Quarai.  The church was built in one of three of the eastern-most Pueblo settlements in New Mexico.

 It is hard to believe that such massive structures could have been built in such a remote location with only the most basic tools.  Most of the labor was done under the direction of the Franciscan friars by Pueblo women.

Paul Horgan in Great River describes the church as it would have appeared when it was in use for a few decades of the 17th Century:
"...the nave at Quarai was one hundred two feet long and fifty-seven wide -- the churches were built with false perspective so that the nave would seem even greater.  White plaster with colored decorations made the interior brilliant.  Light fell upon the altar from a transverse clerestory window above the transept.  Wooden beams, alters and corbels were carved and painted and touched with gilt.  The ceiling was between thirty and forty feet above the floor."

Quarai today is ringed by many old cottonwoods which provide welcome shade for a quiet stroll through the site.  It seems unlikely they would have been part of the scenery when the Pueblo was inhabited as people dependent on wood for fuel tend to clear-cut their immediate surroundings.  The massive timbers over the doors, windows and roofs of the church were probably hewed from logs dragged down from the nearby Manzano Mountains.

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