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Spanish Colonial Church
Spanish Colonial Church
One of the first tasks in establishing the new villa of Albuquerque was the building of a church. On April 23, 1706, the acting governor Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdes wrote to the Viceroy that the villa had a spacious church and that a house for the priest was under way. Padre Juan Minges traveled from Bernalillo to Albuquerque with the first Mayor Capitan Martín Hurtado.

Later investigation revealed that the governor exaggerated. The church was really a small, simple building. Even so, San Felipe de Neri Church recorded its first baptism on June 21, 1706 of Francisca Garcia, daughter of Tomas Garcia and Juana Hurtado. It would later have a convent attached to the south side and a cemetery in front.

In the winter of 1792-1793, the church collapsed as a result of neglect. Governor Fernando de la Concha declared the church’s condition a public disgrace and ordered every Albuquerque family to donate either money or labor to rebuild it. In 1793 they began building San Felipe de Neri Church on the north side of the plaza.

The Spanish Colonial period was difficult for the people. They lived with the fear of Indian attacks, poverty, and hardships. But through all this they were guided by their great faith. They were taught that their reward was not on this earth, but awaited them in heaven.

The church provided a road map for the settlers’ lives, starting with baptism of infants. Throughout all the life cycles, there were numerous occasions when the settlers would ask for and receive special blessings. For example, six weeks after a woman had given birth she would present herself at the door of the church for a special blessing. And before starting a journey, people asked for a blessing for a safe trip. On their return, they would go to church and thank God for their safe travel.

Celebrations and fiestas always began at the church, usually with a procession. The settlers’ homes displayed bultos and retablos of saints and other religious artifacts The people had great faith and believed in prayer. They looked to the church for guidance, forgiveness, and council. The church was their anchor.

Another early church was the Nativity of Our Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Alameda.   The church and cemetery were part of the Alameda plaza, which originated around 1710 near what is now the intersection of Rio Grande and Alameda.

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