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Davis mission church

Davis’s backyard mission church shows his love of the architectural style of the Southwest.
Photo credit: Ty Belknap

Placitas History Project

—Bob Gajkowski

Along the west side of Camino de las Huertas in Placitas is a beautiful adobe mission church. One early afternoon, the sun must have been just right, and I spotted this small treasure and decided to find out more about it. I walked to the mission site on a gentle slope, facing Sandia Peak. The approach from the road reminded me of a similar approach to San Francisco de Asisi at Ranchos de Taos in northern New Mexico.

Crouching behind the buttress and looking past the mission’s twin bell spires, Sandia Mountain is framed in the distance. Each sidewall of this cruciform structure is inset with stained glass windows. The front of the mission features double doors capped by a balcony, which brings to mind San Jose de Gracia Mission in Las Trampas. When lighted at night, the stained glass openings glow on the adjacent sand. Someone had created a miniature homage to the Southwest—its missions and landscapes. I had to look further.

The miniature church was built by long-time adobe builder, John Davis. He calls it, “La Iglesia.” Davis has a deep-seated love of the architecture of the Southwest, particularly of the many adobe missions built in New Mexico. He speaks of the mission builders’ use of the “golden ratio.” This concept finds a special relationship of one part of a structure’s dimensions to its other parts, thus producing a visual and spatial thing of beauty. This concept conveys a feeling of comfort and well-being to those who enter into the full size churches.

To incorporate this principle into his mission church, John took measurements of New Mexican adobe churches. At Las Trampas and Taos, he found many features that he carried over to “La Iglesia.” The buttresses, spires, and front balcony can all be found here. The design and fabrication of the church’s stained glass windows was completed by Vicki, John’s wife, who is an accomplished glass artist. Solar energy provides the minimal lighting, which emphasizes the vivid colored glass.

John Davis’s mission is not totally completed. It is soon to get a stucco color coat. The Davis family invites visitors to the mission, asking only that it be respected as the final resting place for several Davis family members.

In a recent article, concerning the Blessing of the Waters, I mistakenly attributed the rebirth of this long-absent Village tradition to the Resilient Placitas organization, when, in fact, it was through the efforts of the parcientes and mayordomos of the Village acequias that it was organized. Thanks to Vicki Gottlieb, Tony Hill, Joan Fenicle and Vivian DeLara for the correction. The information for my article was provided by Joan Fenicle and compiled by Joan and Vivian De Lara. Again, my apologies to everyone who worked so hard to bring this tradition back. They tell me the Blessing of the Waters will be held again next year.

Finally, I appreciate feedback such as related above. It shows that history is an ongoing, living study, and participants are what it’s all about. Without each of us contributing to it, participating in it, recording it, adding insights and corrections to it, it will never live into future. The Placitas History Project wants everyone to “add their two cents worth” to each and every inquiry, with the goal of adding to the History Archives at the Placitas Community Library. We want these to reflect the true nature of our community.

The next meeting of the Placitas History Project will be held on Thursday, August 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Library. Everyone is welcome.




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