Mission Nuestra Señora de Purísima Concepción de Quarai

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Mission Nuestra Señora de Purísima Concepción de Quarai (1626-1678) - A Spanish mission established in 1626 by Fray Juan Gutierrez de la Chica near present-day Mountainair, Torrance County, New Mexico. Abandoned by 1678. Only ruins remain today.

Quarai Mission Church Walls.
Quarai Mission Church Nave.
Mission Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion de Quarai Church.

The Spanish Period

Juan de Onate officially established the name New Mexico when he was appointed the first governor of the new Province in 1598. Onate extended the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, "Royal Road of the Interior," from Santa Barbara, Chihuahua into New Mexico opening it up for settlers and missionaries. The indigenous people of the new province were the Pueblo peoples and groups of Navajo, Apache and Utes. The villages of these people became known to the Spanish as Pueblos. The early missionaries sought to establish missions at each of the major pueblos and attempt to form the indigenous peoples into european like communities bring them into the catholic religion. The Mission Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion de Quarai was founded in 1626, by Fray Juan Gutierrez de la Chica, as one of the twenty-one Spanish missions founded in New Mexico. He arrived at the Mission in December 1625. Construction on the mission began in 1627 and continued until 1632. The basic plan of the church outlined a Latin cross, some 108 feet long and 28 feet wide. The walls were made of red sandstone and average 4.5 feet to as much as 10 feet at their bases. The wall ruins still stand roughly 20 feet tall, but it is likely the walls once were around 40 feet tall.

The cause of abandonment by 1678 was a combination of misfortunes that included disease, famine, and drought but the major cause was increasingly violent attacks by the Apache plains Indians.

To illustrate the situation Friar Juan Bernal wrote on 1 Apr 1669:

"...this kingdom is ...nearly exhausted...the whole land is at War with the...heathen Apaches who kill all the Christian Indians they can find...no road is safe: everyone travels at risk of his life, for the heathen patrol them all. ... for three years no crops have been harvested. last year a great many Christian Indians starved, left dead along the roads, in the ravines, and in their huts. There were towns like Las Humanas where more than 450 starved. Now the same calamity still prevails in the whole kingdom there is not a bushel basket of corn nor of wheat to be had at any price..."

Current Status

Mission Quarai Ruins Sign.
Mission Quarai Model in Museum.

The Quarai unit is a part of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. Small visitor center/museum and self guided tours of the site. Guided tours are available with advanced notice.

Mission Quarai NPS Site Plan.

Location: Near Mountainair, Torrance County, New Mexico.

Maps & Images

Lat: 34.59616 Long: -106.2959

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 6,630'

GPS Locations:

See Also:



Visited: 14 Apr 2015

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