Tag Archives: church

Historical Marketing: The Friar Door

This week I decided to follow-up the door theme with a look at another very unusual church door.   This double door was actually not in the church, but rather outside and obviously an entrance to a related church building next door. Honestly, I don’t know if the doors were the entrances to the local church group or rather an actual entrance to the priest’s dorms.

In any case, I hope you’ll agree that it is quite a work of art in it’s own right. The wood paneling is very impressive and obviously added to the doors after construction. We know this due to the lines of the individual panels are invisible behind the raised carvings of the priests and cross. Thus, it was not carved from a single piece but rather added to it after the manufacture of the doors themselves.

The white trim following the door frame really helps to enhance the red and brown in the stain of the wood on the doors. What is more fascinating though is the strange red splotch that appears at the top of the left door and leads across the cross to the friar on the other side. Could this have been a previous stain that was on the door and for some reason was not covered properly when a new stain became necessary?

Both Friars, are obviously Franciscan due to shaved heads, the style of robes that they are wearing, and the finally, the rope belts around their waist. Interestingly enough the friars are also holding a skull in one hand and the cross in another. While the iconography of the cross is fairly easy to imagine in a Franciscan motif, The reasons for the skulls however,  take a little more research to uncover.

Indeed, this is where the marketing of the ideals of the church are present.  The skulls represent mortal death and the focus that only through the cross, can death be avoided. It is a casual reminder of mortality.   A clever way of saying, “You will die, but there is a way out.” It’s an example of the best spiritual marketing tagline; a great example for advertising to a populace who really didn’t speak your language well and didn’t or couldn’t read.  Everyone understood what these skulls meant.  Much in the same way that a stained window tells a story without the written word.

The idea of using a skull is from The Canticle of the Sun  by Francis of Assisi. They represent Sister Death in the last lines of the Canticle.

“Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whose embrace no living person can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your most holy will. The second death can do no harm to them.”

Regardless of the hidden religious meanings, this example of a Spanish colonial style church door way is a window into not only the past of the region and town of Taos, but also a look at the cultural Spanish influences that occurred there as far back as the 1500’s.

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The Entrance: A Ghost Story

That wooden door, the great entrance that my heart has clung to for so many years remains shut to me. It stands as a tall solid and immobile barrier to my freedom, and I may never learn of the reasons for it being so.

My entrapment is not a subjective countenance to the strong and unpliable wood. Nor is my spirit captured and enslaved by the sturdy and secure locks that bar the passage of so many a passersby wishing to enter this humble place of worship.

Nay, my present dark circumstances finds my meager soul locked behind this entrance. Looking for a way to escape this church forever. The irony is not lost on me. Even in the days of my life the church always tried every gimmick both fun and fearful in trying to get worshipers though those terrible doors. Little did I understand that once I got here I would never leave!

Truly, as a ghost, I know that there are far worse circumstances a soul could find itself in. Yet, a gilded prison is, at least to the prisoner’s point of view, remains nothing but a prison. Yes, that word best describes it. Prisoner. It conjures the right imagery to the mind. I am the lost and forgotten prisoner doomed to anguish behind these doors for all eternity.  The thought breaks my heart and fills my being with such sadness.

When I was alive, I did not concern myself with the possibilities of souls in torment, or those religious pursuits of binding your soul to glorious heaven or suffering punishments in fiery hells. I had a life to live. The thoughts of dying before I was old and gray simply did not exist in any form for my intellect. People died around me, for sure, but the odds of it happening to me were remote at best. I thought I would always have time later on to worry about my death. These thoughts were best left for the priests and the elder people trying to undo years of unsanctimonious behavior.

Oh, don’t misunderstand my life choices. I did everything  required of me. I attended church, gave alms, and even sang in the choir for a bit of time. Even my dying breath was in service to my fellow-man and the church. Yet, here I am. I’m stuck between worlds and unable to grasp what I need to do to move on.

Why won’t it open?

How did I die? I spent my last mortal moments bringing water to some carpenters and painters working on the ceiling behind the altar. Even though I was 18 years old, I was still a petite sized girl and could only bring the water to the scaffolding, tie a rope around it, and let the workers hoist it into the air on a pulley. Once they finished refreshing themselves, they would lower the bucket and I’d place fruit or nuts for them to snack on and to repeat the process as needed.

It was a hot day and I was quite happy to help these men as they repaired the ceiling to the church. On one such trip with the water pail I must not have tied the rope as securely as I believed. As the fates would have it, the rope became untied awhile it was in the air at the very top of the pulley. I saw a worker grab for it, but the bucket fell straight down like a missile completely crushing my skull with a crimson mist spraying  the work-tarps on the floor.

I awoke standing to one side watching my body lying in a puddle of my blood. My neck bent at an odd angle and my poor head had a ghastly concave wound. The village priest was performing last rites and the workers were either sullen or standing with shocked looks on their faces.

I attempted to get their attention and tell them that I was fine. But, they seemed to be unable to either hear me or see me and provided no interaction. I kept trying to speak, long after my they removed my body and the work was finally completed. I screamed and yelled at my funeral, but again no interactions occurred to bring a sense of peace to myself. Finally, I resigned myself to explore the boundaries of this strange fate.

It was during this period that I attempted to leave the church and found myself unable to do so. I can go to the door, but as I’m ethereal, I cannot seem to be able to grasp it or push it.

Lately, I’ve overheard various people complaining to the priest of cold spots in the sanctuary. There are also several rumors about a sobbing that is sometimes heard. People hear the sound of a young women sob and sometimes can smell the pleasant fragrance of roses, my favorite perfume. But they are unable to determine where it comes from. I must admit, these strange occurrences happen at the same time that the idea of staying here for eternity is more than I can bear and I become despondent and sad. I’m sure I’m the cause of these events. Yet, I really don’t understand how.

Decades have past now, the priest who tended to my body died years ago. No one who remembers my death is still alive. I have watched endless baptisms, weddings, and funerals performed behind that sorrowful entrance.

So, if you’re in the church and you feel a sudden chill, think you hear the mournful sobs of a girl, or smell the sweet aromatics of roses in springtime. It’s me. Waiting… waiting for a chance to leave through that very entrance you walked in through.


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7 Facts about the Putto.

In Renaissance and Baroque art there are very few misidentified beings as the putto. The putto exists in various forms and functions since the days of Ancient Greece. In the Middle Ages the putto disappeared from the artistic and religious natures that the ancients used.

Instead of disappearing forever, they underwent an artistic rediscovery in the Renaissance (1420’s) and used extensively throughout the Baroque period appearing in everything from frescoes to paintings to sculpture. Eventually they became misidentified as baby angels.

Here are 7 facts and clarifications about the Putto :

  1. Putto actually means, “toddler winged angel” or “toddler boy” in Italian.
  2. Originally they were of Greek origin as companions Puttoto different goddesses and gods or sometimes messenger spirits. The most famous gods and goddesses were Eros and Aphrodite,
  3. Romans used them to portray a protective spirit called a genius.
  4. Donatello (the famous sculptor from Florence) revived the Putto in the renaissance by infusing the forms with Christian motifs.
  5. Other Renaissance artist continued to use the Putto for both religious and non-religious functions until the mid 1720’s.
  6. The putto is not a cherub. Cherubs, short for Cherubim are angels depicted with the faces of a human, lion, eagle, and ox. They also have 4 wings.
  7. It was in a 19th century French artistic revival of putti as beings of prosperity and leisure that they began to be mistakenly called cherubs.

Since the putto exists on many churches and secular buildings through the renaissance and baroque time periods it is rather easy to understand why it is found on Spanish missionary churches in the Southwestern United States.

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The Artistic Guide to the Campanario

Bells of the Old Mission is a striking black and white photograph depicting a dilapidated yet still working campanario, or bell wall. These bell walls are found in almost every Spanish mission in the Southwestern United States and Mexico.

Artistically this work is a study in lines, contrast, and eye movement. The bricks in this work relay a linear structure and keep the eye moving in a horizontal pattern on the page. The darkest and most definite line is the one that intersects the photograph directly across the middle.

The bell arches are a classic artistic creation in architecture to force the use of eye movement to organize and control the observer’s attention to detail. Notice how the architects chose to use archways to hold the bells in place. They could have used simple square structures to hold the bells, but the effect would not be the same.

Indeed, this was a conscience artistic decision; because when an observer views an archway the empty middle and the lines surrounding the shape to the keystone at the top naturally guide the eye. This develops movement of the eye from the bottom of the picture to the top.  The eye’s field of view is constantly narrowed from the two bells on the bottom to the one bell at the top and finally forced to rest on the main goal, the viewing of the ornate cross at the very top.

The upper section is a beautiful short brick wall with a large arched opening to support the bell. An item of importance to note is the use of the bricks as the foundation for the arch and keystone. The bricks, in contrast to the large stone, offer a series of lines that promote a quickening and energy to move towards the top.

Meanwhile, the line of the roof between the lower two arches and the upper arch effectively divide the tower in two. The bricks above the center line are in definite contrast to the large slabs of chiseled stone works in the lower sections of the photo even though they appear to have a brick shaped look to the wall face.   Possibly, the builders of the mission faced the necessity to use the larger stones in the lower archways to support the weight of the upper brick archway and it’s heavy bell.Bells of the Old Mission

Notice too that the larger bell in the upper archway is not suspended from a cross beam as those in the lower arches.   This is more than likely a result of the upper bell being the largest of the three. Yet, this bell mounted on a stand and not being suspended creates a large open space in the center of the upper archway. This in turn provides even more reason for the eye to naturally set upon the archway on its inevitable rise to the top.

It is unclear whether the builders had a primary understanding of the artistic nature of what they were building. It is, however, of no doubt the Spanish architects whom designed these magnificent structures understood all to well the power of the line and contrasting stonework to make an artistic statement.

Speaking of statements,   Did you realize how important it is that you make a statement about the arts?

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Even The Lights are Artistic!


Church Light is another example of the fine architecture and decorations found in the Holy Family Catholic Church.  The church remains a symbol of the past in both its design and traditional construction.  Sitting in the mining ghost town Jerome deep in the Arizona desert, the church continues to offer a place for the faithful and adventure seeker to rest for a while.


While the altar and reredos seek to stimulate the visitors eye, the ceiling with its ornate tile and hanging chandeliers also beautify the interior.  The charm of the electric candles used to simulate the candles that an ancient church would have blends the old traditions with a more modern approach.


The cross hanging from the bottom of the light appears to be of marble and exalts the religious significance of the chandelier. The surprising element, however, is the Christian iconography on the frosted glass.  It appears faded and worn through decades of use and is very difficult to see without the lamp being lit.


Overall, Church Light is a stunning example of historic interior design work still showcasing what the original designers intended.  The painted white tiles with their intricate design functions well with the tan or khaki colored interior walls.  The color of the candles matches artistically with the walls and the ornate silver and green structure of the chandelier emphasizes the ceiling.


A church or temple is historically designed and decorated to emphasize the sacred space and give glory to the divine. This holds true no matter what religion or denomination you might discuss.   Every aspect of a place of worship is traditionally designed to present this idea to the common worshiper in a way that is understandable to that worshiper’s culture.  The Holy Family Catholic Church of Jerome is no exception.  The church does this with an elegance and historical style that reflects the cultural background and technology of when it was active.


While the lights in Church Light, may not light the way for throngs of the faithful as it used to, it still showcases a beautiful reflection of religious historical art and makes a stunning addition to any collection.


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