Posted by: Brad Nixon | December 12, 2016

Revisiting an Icon: Ranchos de Taos Church, New Mexico

You’re probably familiar with at least one of the paintings of San Francisco de Asis Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico by the American artist, Georgia O’Keeffe. Here are two of the numerous views she created.

(Throughout this post, click on the grouped photos for larger views. Use onscreen arrows to advance, escape to return.)

Those views are are of the rear — apse — of the structure. Dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi, the church was begun in 1772, completed in 1815. Ranchos de Taos was originally a fortified enclave, and the church fronts on the village plaza. It’s located about 4 miles south of Taos in north-central New Mexico. Here’s the scenery looking north on the drive from Santa Fe.


With its stark adobe walls, the church has been and continues to be enormously popular with photographers and artists. It’s still standing. If you travel to the area, it’s a must-see. You pass directly by it en route between Taos and Santa Fe. How can you not stop?


The Counselor and I have never driven that route without stopping to see the church. There’s something satisfying about seeing one place multiple times: the light is different; the weather varies; one has a new perspective as the years elapse and time alters how we regard the things we see.

The light, as I’ve observed many times in this blog, is one of the marvels of the high desert: changing with the seasons, the time of day, the weather. Here are views of the church from three years, 7 years apart, in 3 seasons:

One can also look back at one’s self in a single place over the years. Who was I then? In what ways was I the same person and how am I different now?

Perspective alone — same day, different angle, various compositions — changes how you view the church. Here, on New Year’s Day, 2000.

Time — maker, molder and destroyer of all things — changes what we see from what Ms. O’Keeffe saw more than 80 years ago. She selected what to show us. The camera is less selective, and today shows power lines, a utility meter, details of daily life, but also a powerful, iconic structure.

Three years, three seasons, one church. Timeless in its way, but ever changing.

San Francisco de Asis Mission Church is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. Click here to view the National Park Service website.

Do you have a favorite place you never tire of seeing? Leave a comment.

P.S. When you visit Taos, find Pizza Out Back and treat yourself to some excellent pizza. Highly recommended, especially on a snowy New Year’s Day!

© Brad Nixon 2016, 2017. Some photos © Marcy Vincent, used by kind permission. Georgia O’Keeffe paintings copyrights as indicated by captions and may not be reproduced for any non-fair use application.



  1. How Monet of you to observe this phenomenon! 👓


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