About this Project
This web site, obviously a work in progress, is my attempt to document some of the historical religious architecture in Texas and New Mexico. I hope that at least a few people will find it interesting and maybe even useful. I invite your ideas, criticisms, and, especially, information about any old churches that you know of.
My definition of “historical church” is pretty fluid. The ones you’ll see here range from beautiful, active, and well-kept buildings to crumbling ruins to humble wood-frame churches and chapels in many states of repair. My definition also takes in the architecture of any and all religious faiths.
The project comes out my observation that photo books about the adobe churches of northern New Mexico could cover a coffee table, but that the attention falls off as the focus moves south, more so as it crosses into Texas, more as it moves from Catholic churches to those of other faiths, and still more as the buildings become more humble.
A lot of the attention to old architecture is based on the appeal of the image. My plan is to go deeper: to gather and share information about the history of the buildings and of the communities that they're part of, and of the role of the churches in the history of the places and communities.
My project started out on a completely unscientific basis: I’d get photos of churches that I came across in my travels, and get what details I could about them both on-location and via research. As the project grew I got a little more methodical. I added to my list from various publications (see references section), I asked friends, and I scrupulously noted any mention of an old church in articles, news stories, etc.
The project has two interlocking parts. The first part is the database of sites. The goal is to get as many old churches as possible into one listing that could by used and built on by others. The second part is this web site: to get new photos and to share them, along with brief information about each site. The data base will be much more inclusive than the web site because it will be impossible to get out and get new photos of so many churches. I’m not averse to using photos from other sources, but part of the plan is to have photos be very current, so that the web site becomes an up-to-date snapshot of the condition of the churches.
As of March 2021 I have about 200 churches in the data base, and it grows nearly every week. I’ve only been to a few of them so far, and those are the ones you’ll see on this web site. I’ll add to the web site as I’m able to get out and photograph the churches.
It seems to me that churches and other religious buildings are living statements about the people, culture, and history of communities, and that they tie the communities together across time. I think that they’re all worth preserving, and if the buildings are to disappear or be replaced (some have to be, in order to serve their congregations), documenting them preserves a valuable part of our history.