25. Santa Clara
The agricultural land around it is of small area, but its industrious people long ago sought out the fertile spots along the winding course of the Santa Clara River, in its well shaded cañon, and there made their summer homes and their fruitful fields.
Its Indian name is Kah-po, and the ordinary mortal loses some of his implicit faith in the infallibility of the professional ethnologist when he finds three authors of distinction differing so widely in their interpretation of this name as to give these varied translations: “Enclosed water,” “Wild Rose,” and “Eyeball”! The reader thus has the advantage of the right of choice.
Santa Clara, though not one of the larger pueblos, yet is not at all decadent; on the contrary its population has increased about twenty per cent in the last century. In addition to its grant, made by the Spanish authorities after the Pueblo Revolution, it enjoys a “reservation” made within recent years in
The town is an irregular oblong, built around a plaza, with lines of corrals outside of what we may call the “residential quarter.” The church was situated at the northeast corner of the village beyond the line of the houses.
Among the older buildings are several two stories in height, but, as in other pueblos, the newer houses are of but one story, and are entered “American fashion” by modern doors. We have the direct statement of Father Benavides that he built the original church there in 1629. That was situated a little southeast of the present location and the spot can still be distinguished by the mound of earth remaining there.
The church which was recently destroyed was erected shortly after the reconquest by De Vargas, and had a set of rooms for the accommodation of the priest on the south side. These rooms were decorated with rude carvings, generally of animals, and they contained in old wooden chests a number of ancient ecclesiastical vestments and a quantity of time-worn documents which probably contained matter of much interest if they could have been examined, but which the Indian sacristan always watched with a most jealous eye.
The church itself was very large and one of the best specimens of the old Franciscan Missions. It was cruciform in shape, the nave being 105 feet long below the transept, the transept eighteen feet wide,
OLD MISSION CHURCH OF SANTA CLARAand the chancel twelve feet in depth, making a total length of 135 feet. The most conspicuous feature of the church was its great entrance, eight feet wide and ten feet high. This was furnished with two massive doors which were only opened on grand occasions,
The church was so massively built that apparently it would last for ages; but the very confidence thus inspired caused its destruction. The spirit of innovation reached even to Santa Clara, and a promise of a roof that would never leak was sufficient inducement for a change. So the old timbers were removed and a modern roof placed on the adobe walls; and alas! when the storm came, the great building which had withstood the vicissitudes of centuries fell with a great crash, as did its sister church in Nambé; and one of the historic landmarks of New Mexico was gone forever.
The annual festival of Santa Clara is on the saint's day of its patrona, which is August 12th. Excursions are usually run from Santa Fé and sometimes from Alamosa; and the pueblo is easy of access in many ways. As this festival comes only one week after the fiesta of Santo Domingo, it is rather
DOOR OF OLD CHURCH AT SANTA CLARAearly dawn the roads are lined with pilgrims bound for the popular shrine. It is safe to say that not a horse within thirty miles is left at home; every young man rides, at top speed, to the fiesta.
Fortunately, though the old church is gone, we can present an excellent picture of the edifice, with the surrounding walled campo santo, as it was before the modernizing spirit made any change; and another, of the great double door with its twenty raised escutcheons. Some day, perhaps; there will be a reaction; and these pictures will preserve the old models unchanged.