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Las Trampas, New Mexico was first settled in 1751 by 12 Spanish families from Santa Fe. By 1776 the village had increased to 63 families numbering 278 people. The Church San Jose de Gracia was built between 1760 and 1776.

The Church has a single nave plan measuring 100 feet long and 52 feet wide, including transepts and a projecting apse. The nave's adobe walls are four and six feet thick respectively, rising to 34 feet high. There are no towers, but projecting buttresses topped by small wooden belfries. The exterior architectural decoration is limited to the paneled main entrance door and the simple wooden balcony above.

One of the most remarkable features of the New Mexico Spanish Colonial Churches and San Jose de Gracia is a transverse clerestory window invisible from inside the nave, it throws a mysterious light on the sanctuary and altar. This is accomplished by raising the transept roof a few feet higher than the nave roof, permitting a low horizontal window over the nave, light from which floods otherwise the dark altar area interior. Such clerestory windows are unknown elsewhere in Spanish Colonial architecture, or indeed in Christian architecture anywhere in the world, and seem to have been the invention of the Franciscan padres of New Mexico.

San Jose de Gracia is located near the Taos scenic highway 76, on the north side of the Las Trampas Plaza. It is one of the best preserved Spanish Colonial churches in the Southwest. Though it does require frequent new mud coats to preserve its adobe.

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Additional Photos by Ray Anderson (photoray) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1073 W: 1 N: 2832] (11763)
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