A small piece of Colorado history - Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, Southern Colorado
On a recent day trip along Southern Colorado’s Highway 12 my friend Nancy and I happened upon this little church outside one of the historical towns on the route. Whenever I come upon a building or place I know nothing about, I try to learn as much as possible of its history. It took a bit of digging, but I was able to learn something about this long abandoned little church.
The community of Plaza De Los Cordobas (Cordova) was named for the family that settled there after moving from New Mexico to the new state of Colorado in 1877.
The Hispanic communities, or plazas, were built with buildings on all sides to form protection from marauders, and most always included a family church. The Cordova family built their church, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, named for their patron saint, in 1878. The church was in use until 1940.
This information was taken from Cordova family heritage records:
"The Cordova Family was deeply religious. As a testament to their faith, Jesus Maria Cordova & Maria Maneulita Martinez Cordova built a chapel in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in 1878. The flat-roofed chapel was renovated in the early 1900s with the addition of a pitched roof and wooden floor. On January 17, 1915, when Arturo was 8 years old, he witnessed the burial of his Uncle Jose Rafael beneath the floorboards, the last interment beneath the floor of the chapel. By this time the underground space was filled solidly with corpses side by side in their semi-decayed coffins… Jose del Carmel, its builder, was the first to be buried there. About 50 immediate members of the family are buried there."
Buried there? Under the floorboards?
This was the first time I’d ever heard of such a thing, but as I was about to learn, this was not such an uncommon practice.
From The A-Z of Death and Dying: Social, Medical, and Cultural Aspects, edited by Michael Brennan:
“In Europe in the Middle Ages, and up until the mid-19th century, bodies might also be buried under the floorboards of Christian churches and in crypts designed for the purpose. It was believed at the time that the closer to the altar a person was buried, the closer they were to God, and thus, to a place in heaven.”
I have no idea if they are still there, or were later interred elsewhere.
NOTE: The church is on PRIVATE property near the town of Weston. Photos must be taken from the public roadway.
I grew up in Cordova Plaza, We lived with my Grandfather Jose Esquipula Cordova who was born in Cordova Plaza ( Los Cordovas). My mother was born there also. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church was the main focus of the Cordova Family. Growing up in the 60’s we prayed the Rosary everyday during the month of May. The ringing of the church bell in the evening called everyone to the church to pray the rosary, and you better have a good reason for not showing up! Sunda was the only day we didn’t pray the rosary because it is the Lord’s Day & we went to church at Our Lord of Esquipula in Weston Co. My Mom told me that 2 of her little sisters are buried under the church.
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