the church continued as a visita but was served by the parish
of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Bernalillo. Construction
of the present Old San Ysidro Church began about 1868.
In 1868, a rampaging Rio Grande flood swept away the
Corrales church. Timbers were salvaged from the river as well as
coffins from the graves at the church. The Gutierrez family donated
land on higher ground for a graveyard (campo santo) and also a new
church. The salvaged lintels and beams (vigas ) were used in this new
church. The lintel over the east window has the date of 1857 carved on
it. It was probably a timber salvaged from the flood. Old San Ysidro
church is a classic example of the New Mexico Hispanic religious
village architecture of the 18th and 19th centuries. It is in the shape
of a cross. The massive masonry adobe walls are nearly three feet thick
and hand-plastered with adobe on both the exterior and interior. The
adobe blocks are made of clay, sand and straw, 20" x 10" x 5".
Hand-hewn corbels support the vigas and there are hand-adzed lintels
above the doors and the windows. The original building had a flat
earthen roof with a belfry over the main entrance which was a single
door facing the east. The floor was packed earth. Interior mud
plastered walls were whitewashed with gesso. The wooden model in the
church today depicts the original adobe building.
Older parishioners have told us that seven windows
provided light. Monthly services were held during the day. At night,
candles and kerosene lamps might be used. (Corrales did not have
electricity until the mid 1930's.) Wooden steps led up to the east
door. At some time in the late 1800’s or early 1900's, a shallow
Victorian porch was added then later removed. A bell hung over the
front entrance. The rope was attached to the door frame but out of
reach of children. The sacristana (keeper of the church) would pull the
bell slowly and the solemn sound would announce the death of an adult.
A faster pealing bell would mean a child had died. A young person on
horseback would ride out and carry the news to the people of the
village. Ancestors of many current Corrales families are buried in the
Old Church, in the courtyard to the east and in the campo santo to the
In the old Church to the left of the entrance, there was
a small table holding a basin of holy water. There was a small choir
loft in the northeast corner of the nave. Precipitous stairs led to the
loft that held about eight choir members, a small organ and organist.
The choir sang for processionals and recessionals and during church
services. There were no hymnals.
When the parishioners attended mass in the church, they
sat on woven blankets on the packed earth floor–Indian blankets
or Hispanic weavings. Later, each family provided their own bench,
called a tarima which was a plank with four legs. It was a low, movable
bench with the family name printed on the back. Four original pews
stand in the church today; the smallest of these was donated by the
Emilio Lopez family. The sacristana would start a fire in the large,
potbellied wood burning stove 24 to 48 hours before the service on cold
winter days. Fourteen stations of the cross hung on white washed walls.
Today, ten of the original ones have been cleaned and stabilized and
now hang in the sacristy.
There was a large altar in the apse and a side altar in
each transept. The large altar was covered with white linen and held
the tabernacle. Candles on shelves flanked the tabernacle with the
statue of San Ysidro in the center above. San Ysidro is the patron
saint of the village of Corrales. This statue or bulto is now in the
new church in Corrales; the tabernacle is in use in the church at Mora.
A communion railing painted white and gold surrounded the sanctuary.
In the south transept, there was a side altar covered
with white linen and the statues of the Holy Family. There was a small
table with candles next to it and benches against the east wall. The
north transept had a side altar covered with white linen which held the
statue of the Virgin Mary. (While being restored, it was found to be
St. Margaret originally. It was common practice to adapt the bultos to
present needs.) A small table held candles. A bench on the east wall
next to the sacristy was used as a waiting bench for confessionals.
In about 1905, the sacristy was added to the church. The
confessional booth was to the right of the entrance. The long cabinet
which is in the sacristy today held the priest’s vestments and a
supply of candles. It was made by Carlos Sena of Bernallio. There was
an iron bedstead, a washstand and a stove. A visiting priest could stay
over to celebrate the fiesta of San Ysidro in May and other holy days.
Barbed wire enclosed the plaza of the church. In about
1900, two cottonwood trees were planted to the north. They furnished
shade for the horses tied there during summer masses.
The Old Church was remodeled in the 1930's. Twin bell
towers (buttresses) were built to support the weakening facade. A
“pitched tin roof” of corrugated steel and a hard stucco
exterior were added. A concrete “skirting” was poured at
the base of the building to protect it from erosion when rainwater
rolled off the new roof. Concrete steps led to new double doors in the
In the interior, a stamped tin ceiling was added which
covered the vigas and corbels. Pine tongue-in-groove planks covered the
packed earth floor. Electric lighting replaced kerosene lanterns after
the extension of rural electrification in the mid 1930's. Two gas wall
heaters eventually replaced the wood burning stoves just prior to
building the new church on Corrales Road.
In the early 1960's, the Old San Ysidro Church was
deconsecrated and the congregation moved to the new church on Corrales
Road in November 1961. From 1963 -1974, the Archdiocese allowed the
Adobe Theater to use the Old Church. Modifications created a theater
atmosphere. At this time the famous line was painted over the sacristy
door, “Act well your part; therein, all the honor lies.”
In 1973-74, the Old San Ysidro Church was sold by the
Archdiocese of Santa Fe to the Corrales Historical Society. The
contract placed restrictions on the use of the building having to do
with respect for burials under the floor and for the history of the
In 1976, the Corrales Historical Society deeded the
ownership of the Old Church to the Village of Corrales under an
agreement by which the Society manages the Old Church. Preservation of
the building began with the removal of the hard exterior stucco and all
walls were refinished with traditional adobe plaster. The Society and
the Village continued to rent the church to the Adobe Theater for use
during the summer.
In 1979 Old San Ysidro Church was placed on the State
Register of Cultural Properties. In 1980 Old San Ysidro Church was
placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1981, the roof was repaired and an adobe wall was
built to create a small plaza. The stamped tin ceiling was removed
exposing the original vigas (beams) and corbels. The ceiling decking
In 1987-88, the lease with the Adobe Theater was not
renewed. The Corrales Historical Society began extensive remodeling of
the old building. Theater seats, risers and stage surfaces were removed
exposing the interior structure of the Old Church. The east doors were
replaced with historic doors. Old, weakened lintels were replaced.
Interior walls were mud plastered. A door was cut in the south transept
and an old blocked door was uncovered in the sacristy. Community
organizations and individuals donated trees and plants for landscaping.
In 1988, the Annex was built to provide restrooms, kitchen and storage facilities.
During 1989-Jan 2004:
The wooden floors were replaced, as well as the sacristy door. More
lighting was added. The “apples” on the corbels are being
restored. They were chopped off to accommodate the stamped tin ceiling
which was installed in the 1930's and then removed during restoration
in the 1980's. The south door has been modified to facilitate
handicapped access to the building. A memorial stained glass window has
been placed in the east window to honor one of the old families, Dulce
and Vincent Curtis.
Today the Old San Ysidro Church is maintained, preserved
and managed by volunteers of the Corrales Historical Society using the
monies earned from membership dues, fund raising events, donations and
leasing income.The Old Church is used for many community activities
~Fine art exhibitions and craft shows
~A lecture series, classes and other programs
~Community celebrations such as Harvest Festival, Christmas
celebrations and Heritage Day events
~Village Council meetings
~Musical programs –chamber groups, concert pianists, choral
groups, blue grass and folk music
The Old Church may be rented for private events such as weddings,
parties and meetings.
This History of the Old Church was updated March 2004, by Mary
Harrington, Hope Grey and Gay Betzer. It is based on information
gathered over the years. In the 1990's, Barbara Pijoan, Martha Trainer
and Gay Betzer compiled a History of Old San Ysidro Church based on
historical records and a docent interview with parishioners who
attended the church here in the 1940's. There is interesting reading in
the Docent Files in the trastero in the sacristy: San Ysidro Church by
Marsha Bol, Brief History of Corrales by Mary Davis, Old San Ysidro
Church application on January 9, 1979 to the NM Register of Cultural
Properties and A Brief History: L’Iglesia de San Ysidro Corrales,
New Mexico by Gay Wilmerding who designed the Annex.