Acoma Pueblo; San Esteban del Rey Mission

inhabited since the 12th century; 1629-1640
Both the Mission and the pueblo are National Historic Landmarks.

Acoma Pueblo, sometimes known as "Sky City," is probably the oldest continuously inhabited town in the United States. Acoma, which means the People of the White Rock, has been inhabited since the 12th century. The town is dramatically located on a sandstone mesa which rises 367 feet above the valley (7000 feet above sea level). This site provided an ideal natural defense against enemies.

Enchanted Mesa

This is not the mesa on which Acoma Pueblo is located but a nearby similar stone outcropping.
In 1540 the Spanish took over the village. The Franciscan mission was built in 1629 under the direction of Friar Juan Ramirez in a location somewhat apart from the existing village.

Left: view from the mesa; center: the path down to the valley; right: San Esteban del Rey in the distance

All the building materials had to be brought to the top of the barren soilless site, including stone and beams for the church. The mission has thick adobe walls, a flat roof, and few windows. The Franciscan monastery is attached to the church. The front yard is a raised cemetery with a wall surmounted by guardian heads.

The mission front


The side of the mission; views of the housing in the village

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© 2000 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.

Page created by Mary Ann Sullivan