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San Gaetano y San Juan Nepomucen Catholic Church

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1938. 6 miles southwest of Antonito via U.S. 285 and Conejos County C

Ortiz (1871, 7,950 feet) was named for Nestor Ortiz, a prominent storekeeper and sheep rancher. This tiny village in a small valley near the Colorado-New Mexico border is proud of its church, a building of white stucco over concrete. A curvilinear parapet rises from corner piers to meet the projecting bell tower at the apex of the gable end. The frame belfry has a pyramidal cap topped by a wooden cross embellished with nails and painted bloodstains. It was made and installed by Benito Archuletta, caretaker of the church since 1956.

The gently curved apse has a detailed mural, painted in 1990 by Michael Derry, a local artist, who portrayed the community as background for a heroic figure of the Virgin blessing the churches at Conejos and Ortiz. Round-arched stained glass windows shed light on a large wood stove, made from a 100-gallon oil drum, which heats the church. The church is dedicated to Saints Cajetan and John Nepomucen, the latter being the patron of the Penitente sect. Nepomucen's statue over the altar depicts him in his typical pose—with a finger raised to his lips.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Thomas J. Noel

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