In the Celestial City and the Middle Place: Architectural Form and Everyday Life in Seventeenth-Century Zuni Missions

posted Nov 17, 2015, 6:01 PM by Bill Marzella   [ updated Nov 17, 2015, 6:02 PM ]
A Lecture by Klint Ericsson
Latrobe Chapter Annual Meeting
Tuesday, December 1, 2015



Spanish mission churches are venerable icons of the American Southwest, with popular culture widely appropriating their images for revival architectural styles, western film sets, and even the branding of fast food. The oldest surviving missions of the United States stand among the Pueblo Indian towns and ruins of New Mexico, where Franciscan friars arrived in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Although the Spanish instigated these constructions, it was Pueblo laborers who built them and provided labor necessary to keep them operational. Native Americans worked and often lived alongside friars in mission residences known as conventos, resulting in culturally-mixed communities in which negotiation, exchange, and resistance were part of everyday life. Despite almost a century of research, however, historians remain uncertain about the degree of Indigenous contribution to these structures and reception of the missions’ ideological programing.

This talk considers the significance of New Mexico’s mission architecture through the lens of the two particular examples among the Zuni Indians. The missions at Hawikku and Halona Pueblos were both established in 1629, and built according to a single architectural design. Archaeological excavations of their conventos provide glimpses into the mission community’s everyday practices in contrast to the rhetorical objectives that New Mexico’s Franciscans encoded in their designs and writings. Employing an interdisciplinary approach that draws on archaeology, anthropology, and primary sources to consider the meaning of the convento as a design and series of architectural spaces, Mr. Ericson approaches mission architecture in a new way by focusing on everyday life and the role of community members in constructing its meaning.

Klint Ericson is a Ph. D. Candidate in Art History at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Since 2013, he has been a Peter Buck Research Fellow at Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, conducting dissertation research among the collections of the NMNH and the National Museum of the American Indian. 

The First Congregational United Church of Christ
945 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20001
6:30 pm – reception, 7:00 pm – brief annual meeting and lecture


Reservations are not required. $10.00 for Latrobe Chapter members, student members (full time) free with ID, $18.00 for non-members.
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