Sanctuaries of Earth, Stone, and Light
The Churches of Northern New Spain, 1530-1821
By Gloria Fraser Giffords
(University of Arizona Press, Hardcover, 9780816525898, 480pp.)
Publication Date: November 2007
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Over nearly three centuries, Jesuit, Franciscan, and Dominican missionaries built a network of churches throughout the “new world” of New Spain. Since the early twentieth century, scholars have studied the colonial architecture of southern New Spain, but they have largely ignored the architecture of the north. However, as this book clearly demonstrates, the colonial architecture of Northern New Spain—an area that encompasses most of the southwestern United States and much of northern Mexico—is strikingly beautiful and rich with meaning. After more than two decades of research, both in the field and in archives around the world, Gloria Fraser Giffords has authored the definitive book on this architecture.
Giffords has a remarkable eye for detail and for images both grand and diminutive. Because so many of the buildings she examines have been destroyed, she sleuthed through historical records in several countries, and she discovered that the architecture and material culture of northern New Spain reveal the influences of five continents. As she examines objects as large as churches or as small as ornamental ceramic tile she illuminates the sometimes subtle, sometimes striking influences of the religious, social, and artistic traditions of Europe (from the beginning of the Christian era through the nineteenth century), of the Muslim countries ringing the Mediterranean (from the seventh through the fifteenth centuries), and of Northern New Spain’s indigenous peoples (whose art influenced the designs of occupying Europeans).
Sanctuaries of Earth, Stone, and Light is a pathbreaking book, featuring 200 stunning photographs and over 300 illustrations ranging from ceremonial garments to detailed floor plans of the churches.
“Giffords approaches her subject with passion, clarity and precision. The quasi-encyclopedic nature of the study together with the well-selected, beautiful, and informative illustrations that accompany the text assure the book a prominent place in the relevant scholarship on the U.S. West, the Borderlands, the Southwest and Latin America.” —New Mexico Historical Review“Giffords’ magisterial survey of architecture and arts of the region’s Spanish colonial churches is perhaps the most useful of all.” — Southwestern Historical Quarterly“This excellent study will become the standard encyclopedia to which we will refer, both to support (or at least inform) our claims and to read in order to better understand the incredibly complex subject of churches and their decorations and contents in northern New Spain.” —SMRC Revista“This beautifully illustrated, oversized, hard-bound volume is an absolute must for the library of any student of Spanish colonial missions.” —Journal of Arizona History