LAS MESITAS —A mission church at Las Mesitas, about seven miles east of Antonito, has become a mecca for photographers, thanks to a fire in 1975.
It didn’t quite make it to a centennial celebration.
In March 1878, the first mass was celebrated in a home belonging to D. Juan Jaramillo and the parish priest, P. Digamare SJ, resolved to build a mission chapel and construction began, with benediction Oct. 7, 1879, when the chapel was dedicated to San Isidro Labrador.
In 1932, a new church was built on donated land and dedicated in 1933 to San Enrique y San Isidro by Urbano J. Vehr, Denver’s first Catholic Archbishop.
On Saturday, Nov. 1, 1975, a heater inside the church malfunctioned and the structure was totally engulfed, leaving only the walls standing.
The stained glass windows melted, along with vessels used in celebration of mass. The Stations of the Cross fell from the walls.
An antique bell cast from jewelry donated by pioneer women and originally calling the faithful to Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church at Conejos, was moved to the Las Mesitas church around 1919 finally broke, melted and fell into the ashes.
At the time of the fire, parish priest Theatine Fr. Andrew Bonet said insurance wouldn’t cover rebuilding the church, which by that time, was a total loss.
Today, the ashes are gone and grass grows in what were the aisles, leaving an interesting group of angles and shadows, drawing the lens of photographers who post their work online.
La Capilla de San Enrique y San Isidro has found new life. A wedding has been held there and masses are celebrated with straw bales as seating when weather allows.