The following glossaries are those compiled from both those published sources credited as such in each contribution, or posted in their original PDF format.  Our intent is to post glossaries that span various topics in Spanish colonial and Mission era studies.  Our priority, however, remains with Spanish colonial and Mission era art and architecture.

We have taken the liberty of posting from the outset a PDF version of the Compilation of Colonial Spanish Terms and Document Related Phrases (Second edition, 1998; Compiled and edited by Ophelia Marquez and Lillian Ramos Navarro Wold). The Marquez and Ramos Navarro Wold document provides a comprehensive list of useful terminology related to the Spanish colonial and Missions era.

Architecture Through Time Poster - Copyright © Ruben G. Mendoza, 2013.

Architecture Through Time Poster – Copyright © Ruben G. Mendoza, 2013.


Compiled by Rubén G. Mendoza and Shari R. Harder / Version of 2011

Vocabulario de Arte y Arquitectura

abacus     The slab at the top of a capital between the capital and the architectural       member above. Also known as an impost block. Other parts of a column or pier:                  capital, shaft, base (M)

abarrada        Dam. (I)

abujόn    Drafting protractor or mariner’s compass used by architects to construct sundials.  (I)

acequia    A word derived from Arabic referring to an irrigation canal.  (H)  Irrigation system. (I)

achaflanado    A colloquialism or misspelling of chaflanado, which in the eighteenth century meant chamfered or beveled.  See also chafrando. (I)

acojinado    Cushion-shaped element used in the decorative detailing of a building.  Synonymous with almohadilla.  (I)

adobe     Sun-dried mud brick. (A)  Building constructed of sun-dried bricks of earth and straw; also, the bricks themselves. (B)  sundried, earthen brick, amixtl is the Nahuatl world for adobe. (H)  Sun-dried bricks manufactured either as de marca, whose composition was regulated, or as sancopinca, which was an inferior grade. (I)

adobera    Wooden mold used for making adobe. (H)

adobero    One who walks with adobe. (H)

adzed    The process of stripping or smoothing a log with a stone or metal blade, usually into a rectangular shape. (H)

aggregate    Sand and gravel in plasters, mortars and mud. (H)

aisle    Open area of a church parallel to the nave and separated from it by columns or piers.  (M)  See also “nave.”

alarife    Architect (I)

alberca    Reservoir or caja de agua. (I)

alcantarilla    The archaic meaning intended by the author is aqueduct.  It is now used to mean a small bridge, culvert, drain, underground sewer, or, in Mexico City, a public fountain. (I)

alcayata    Hook used with padlocks or windows…it can also refer to a spike.  (I)

alfardas    Used by the author to mean supporting beams for a non-vaulted staircase.  It also refers to the walls of a staircase.  (I)

alfarje    Wooden ceiling of many short pieces, ingeniously fitted together to form a three-sided enclosure with interlaced patterns.  Moorish origin. (A)

alfiz      Retangular or square framing devide marking the ornamented part of a portal.  Moorish origin. (A)

altar    Table for celebration of the Mass.  Altar is used in a special sense by writers of the later viceregal period in New Spain to refer to a retablo. (C) In the Roman Church, a table at which the celebration of the Eucharist takes place. It is placed in a prominent place in the church, usually at the east end, in the choir or sanctuary, facing the main entrance to the church. (M)  See also and

altar crucifix    See:

altar vessels    See:

alternation of

supports    A system of supports for an arcade or colonnade in which there are two different types of support. The alternation may be quite obvious, between one pier (strong support) and one column (weak support), or it may exist only in slight differences, such as in the shafting on each pier. (M)  See also arcade, colonnade, column, pier

alto relievo     (also alto rilievo, Italian for high relief, almost detached from its background):  Terms erroneously used by Kingsbury (“Notes from My Knapsack,” p. 176) to describe the San Jose portal sculptures, which are completely detached from the wall, or free-standing sculptures. (C). A sculpture in high relief (origin: Italian altorilievo, first known use 1664) (D)

alum (alumbre)    Chemical composition commonly referred to as aluminum sulfate, though the actual composition is most commonly potash alum (potassium aluminum sulfate). (H)

ambulatory    A semicircular or polygonal aisle. Often an ambulatory leads around the east end of the choir; separating the choir from apses or chapels.  (M)  See also aisle, apse, choir, east end, hemicycle.

andamio    Scaffold.  (I)

antepecho    Railing, guardrail, sill, parapet, or breastwork.  (I)

apse     Terminal part of a church enclosing the sanctuary with its altar; usually the east end. (A)  The rectilinear, polygonal, or semicircular enlargement of the main altar end (traditionally the eastern end) of a church to provide more space and emphasis for the altar. (C)  A vaulted extension or projection, usually from a choir or chapel and generally circular or polygonal in shape. (M)

araña    literally “spider” in Spanish, but here refers to a wooden candleholder suspended from the ceiling. (H)

arcade    The underside on an arch, opening, or overhanging projection. (M)

arch    A curved structural member spanning an opening or recess. The wedge shaped elements that make up an arch keep one another in place and transform the vertical pressure of the structure above into lateral pressure.

Parts of an arch: keystone, soffit, spring line, springer, voussoir.  Measurements of an arch: rise, span.  Related architectural elements: arcade, cusp, hood moulding, spandrel, tympanum. See also: intersecting arch, blind arch, relieving arch. Depressed arch:  A flattened arch, slightly pointed on top. It appears in Late Gothic of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  Horseshoe arch:  An arch shaped like a horseshoe. It is found particularly in Spain or in buildings influenced by Spanish ones.  Ogee or ogive arch:  An arch with a pointed apex, formed by the intersection of two S curves usually confined to decoration and not used in arcade arches. Ogee arches were used only in the late Gothic period. Blind arch:  An arch applied to a wall.  Relieving arch:  an arch which encloses an arch or a window or other opening. It helps relieve some of the weight on the arch of the opening. Blind arcade: A row of decorative arches applied to a wall.  Intersecting arches:  arches which cross over each other in an arcade.  (M)

architrave    Lowest horizontal division of an entablature (q.v.)  Decorated characteristically for each of the religious orders and their variations. (C)  See:

archivolt    An architrave or wide molding carried around an arch. (C)  See:

arena    Sand.  (I)

arco        Arch.  (I)

arroba        A unit of weight equal to twenty-five pounds.  (I)

artesonado      Wood ceiling with many deep coffers decorated with painting and inlay.  Moorish origin. (A)

ashlar          Hewn or squared stone cut to fit a certain location. (A)

asistencia    Mission ranch outpost with a chapel that a priest would occasionally visit to conduct religious services.(B)

atravesado    Long ashlar made of chiluca or cantería in standard dimensions.  (I)

atrio      Large walled area usually in front of the church, often seen with atrio cross and corner posas. (A)

atrium    An open courtyard at the entrance of a church, usually surrounded by covered aisles. The atrium of the Early Christian church was originally a place for the catechumens to wait during the celebration of the Eucharist.  (M)

audiencia    Spanish judicial institution that was also responsible for political administration in the Spanish colonies.  In cities where a real audiencia was in residence, no public work or building could be undertaken without the approval of its officials.  (I)

azadón    A type of iron bar weighing between five and six pounds used by smiths.  See also hierro.  (I)

azoteas    Flat roofs with barrel vaulting or terracing. (B)  A flat built-up roof. (F)

azulejeos          Glazed tiles, colored, used to cover building surfaces. (A)     (Spanish):  Glazed (colored) tile. (C)

baivel    Instrument used by stonecutters in the eighteenth century which formed a mixtinlíneo angle equal to that of the foundation stones or salmeres of an arch.  Synonymous with regla cercha in the eighteenth century.  Today a baivel is square bevel used by stonemasons.  A mixtilíneo arch is one whose outline is made up of both straight and curved lines.  (I)

baldachin    A canopy of fabric carried in church processions or placed over an altar; an ornamental canopy standing over an altar. (C)

bajareque        Construction of earth and sticks.(B)

balustrade    Railing with distinctive rounded posts.(B)  A row of balusters or vase-shaped uprights, surmounted by a rail. (C)

baptismal font    A receptacle for water, used for baptismal. Early Christian baptism took place by total immersion, so the baptismal font was large and generally built into the floor of a separate building.  Later, particularly in northern Europe, child baptism replaced adult baptism so the font could be made smaller and was usually placed in the church building itself. (M)

Baptistry (*ery)    The place where the baptismal font stands. (C) See also and

Baroque    Style of art and architecture common in Spain and New Spain and the rest of the Western world in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries A.D.  Divided into Early Baroque (1650 to 1750) in New Spain, characterized by the use of the Solomonic column on facades and altarpieces, and Late Baroque (1750 to 1790), characterized by the use of the estípite column; Toussaint (Colonial Art in Mexico) used Ultra-Baroque to describe the style (1770 to 1790) characterized by the use of the Ornamental niche-pilaster. (C)  of, or relating to, or having the characteristics of a style of artistic expression prevalent in the 17th century that is marked generally by use of complex forms, bold ornamentation, and the juxtaposition of contrasting elements often conveying a sense of drama, movement, and tension. (D)

barrel vault        Semicircular masonry vault covering a nave. (A)

A tunnel-like vault. (C)

barreta    Iron bar edged with steel that weighed nineteen pounds or more.  Used by smiths.  See also hierro.  (I)

base    The architectural element on which a column or pier rests. (M)

basilica     Three-aisled structure whose center aisle, the nave in a church, is higher than the side aisles; windows provide illumination to the center. (A)  See also:

basket arch        An arch whose curve resembles that of a basket handle. (C)

bay    Defined portion of the nave (or apse). (A)  Compartmental division of a nave, aisle, or other long space; also used to describe the divisions of a portal. (C)

baza    Technically, the pedestal or base of a column or pilaster above the plinth.  (I)

belfry    A tower in which one or more bells are hung. (C)  The small, tower-like structure sheltering the bell on a church with a pitched roof. (H)

bird’s mouth cut    Refers to a notched rafter that sits snuggly on the top plate of a wall. (H)

bohar    Synonymous with incumba, according to the author.  The word bohar may have been a colloquialism, since it is not in the eighteenth-century dictionary.  The accepted term was bolsόn, which was the first stone laid in the construction of an arch.  (I)

bolsόn    The first stone laid in the contruction of an arch; the same as salmer or incumba.  (I)

bolzor    Possibly a colloquialism for bolsόn, the first stone laid in the construction of an arch.  (I)

bond beam

or tie beam    Beam, historically made of wood, that runs along the top of the wall and supports vigas. (H)

boss    A projecting stone at the intersection of the ribs of a vault, often the keystone and frequently carved.  (M)

bracket    A small supporting piece of stone, often formed of scrolls or volutes, to carry a projecting weight. (C)

brown coat    Term used in the United States for the plaster layer over the “scratch” coat and under the “color” or finish coat. (H)

bruñido    Polished lime plaster burnished with river rocks or smooth stones; usually used for roofs and domes finished with lime plaster. (H)

braza    Unit of measurement equaling 2 varas; or 1.67 meters; or 1.83 yards. (G)

bulto    Carved wooden religious figure (B)  A three-dimensional carved image of a saint or holy figure. (H)  Three-dimensional, painted wooden sculptures that represent images of Christian iconography. Bultos en nichos are composed of three-dimensional sculptures that represent images of Christian iconography placed within an enclosed architectural niche (nicho). This does not include simple arches and frames surrounding the bulto.  (L)

buttress    A strong, projecting vertical support for a wall.  May be a pier buttress. (C)

camarín     Special room for displaying and dressing a sacred image, usually of the Virgin Mary. (A)

campanario    General designation for the structure holding a church’s bells. (B) (Spanish):  A wall with openings in which bells are hung; a bell wall. (C)

Camposanto        (Spanish):  Cemetery, graveyard. (C)

canal    New Mexican term referring to roof drain spouts projecting through parapet walls. (H)

canales    Drains, as along a roof. (B)

candlesticks    See:

canvas painting

capilla de indios     An open-air chapel designed for use by the indigenous (Indian) population. (A)

capilla de mayor     Area around the main altar, usually the sanctuary, but can extend into the crossing and transept. (A)

capillarity    The process wherein moisture rises through plaster, mortar and/or wall material; also referred to as rising damp. (H).

capital:      The carved top of a column or pilaster. (C)  Decorative element that divides a column or pier from the masonry which it supports. (M)

cargo     Pueblo, part of a parish, for which the pastor is held responsible; a dependency of a parish. (A)

casco    Literally, “head”; at a mission the term refers to the central portion where the church, convento, neophyte ranchería, soldiers’ quarters, workshops, and storehouses are located.(B)

cedro    Literally cedar; wood usually split in half or used whole as decking spanning from viga to viga. (H)  See also “rajas.”

cement    Generic name given to materials that can bind other materials together by setting and hardening independently.(B) See also “Portland cement”.


chalice    Sacred vessel holding the wine during Mass  (B) See also

chamfer    Decorative, finished edges of a square beam or post, obtained by carving down its sharp corners. (H)

Chapel:    A chamber or recess for meditation, prayer, or subordinate services, usually with a separately dedicated altar. (C) See also

choir loft    (coro alto in Spanish):  Choir on an upper level in churches where the choir is placed over the entrance at the end opposite the altar; the area under the upper-level choir is called the coro bajo in Spanish. (C)

Christ in the Sepulchre    A sculpture sometimes displayed in the church and used in processions during religious holy days; the fourteenth Station of the Cross. (C)

choir    The area of the church between a transept and main apse. It is the area where the service is sung and clergy may stand, and the main or high altar is located. In some churches there is no choir, while in others, the choir is quite large and surrounded by an ambulatory. (M)

ciborium    Device for holding the host during Mass  (B) A goblet-shaped vessel for holding Eucharistic bread.  Medieval latin, from Latin, cup, from Greek kibōrion.  First known use: 1651. (D)

citarilla    Lattice work of ladrillos along a balustrade or railing. (B)

Classic Order    An architectural “order” consisting of column, capital entablature and pediment of Greek Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian temples. (A) See also “Orders.”

clay    Sticky soil used as a binder in earthen blocks, mortars and plasters, defined by particle size that swells when wet and shrinks when dry. (H)

cloister:    Open court, usually with planting, surrounded by covered passages, in the residential part of a friary (Spanish claustro). (C)  Part of a monastery; a quadrangle surrounded by covered passages. It connects the domestic parts of the monastery with the church. Cloisters are usually located on the south side of the church.

Other parts of monastery: chapter house, refectory, scriptorium.  (M)

cloister court    Court, forming the core of a convento, bounded by covered walks. (A)

CMU    Abbreviation for a concrete masonry unit, or cinder block. (H)

codex/codices        Prehispanic, and at times colonial, manuscripts (A)

codo    Unit of measurement equaling ½ vara; or .418 meters; or 16.50 inches. (G)

collar tie (whythe)    board attached to two rafters about two-thirds of the distance below the peak to create a truss and increase structural stability of the rafters. (H)

colonnade    A row of columns which support horizontal members, called an architrave, rather than arches.  (M)

column    An architectural support of a definite proportions, usually cylindrical in shape with a shaft and capital (and sometimes a base).  May be free-standing or attached to a wall (“engaged”) as a half or three-quarter column (cut vertically into halves or into three-quarters). (C)  A cylindrical support, usually structural but often decorative.  Parts of a column: abacus or impost block, capital, shaft, column base.  applied or engaged column:  A column which is attached to the wall so that only half of the form projects from the wall.  (M)

confessional    The place in the church where a priest hears confessions. (C)

contra fuerte    the Spanish equivalent of a buttress, a  massive piece of masonry or concrete, usually used to keep walls from moving. (H)

contra pared    literally “against the wall”; refers to concrete grade beams often installed at the base of adobe walls in an attempt to stop basal erosion; thought to give structural stability to walls without foundations or with stone/rubble foundations. (H)

convent    Religious institution for women; usually cloistered. (A)

Convento      Wing of rooms at a mission housing the priests, and including a sala, library, kitchen, and rooms for visitors. (B)  (Spanish);  Sixteenth-century conventual architecture of viceregal Mexico; included a church, an open chapel, an open space in front called an atrio (Spanish for atrium), a friary, a cloister, a refectory, and other buildings. (C)  Middle English covent, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin conventus, from Latin, assembly, from convenire.  First known use:  13th century. (D)  Priests’ dwelling including cells, offices, refectory, kitchen, and sometimes, guest room and workshops.  (F)

corbel    Unit of measurement equaling 10 varas; or 8.38 meters; or 9.15 yards. Variations of note:  10 varas, used primarily in measuring the criadero; 50 varas, used to lay out plots of land; 69 varas, applied to the measurement of caballerías of land. (G)

cornice    Topmost horizontal division of an entablature (q.v.).  Sometimes isolated and used separately as a strong molding. (C)

coping    Decorative element on the top of a parapet wall, usually made of brick or stone. (H)

corbel    Decorative, carved wooden element, usually with a scroll-like profile; often used to support vigas in a wall. (H)

coro            Screened area at rear of a convent church reserved for nuns. (A)

course    Term used to describe one row of masonry units, such as adobes, in a wall. (H)

Cross    One of the principal Christan symbols; architecturally, of the Latin type (with one arm longer than the others) or the Greek type  (with all arms of equal length). (C)

crossing    Where the two axes of a church intersect; in plan a square. (A) Area where the nave and transept intersect (C)  Area of a church where the nave, choir, and transept intersect.  Crossing piers:  In the interior of a building, a support placed at one of the corners of the crossing.  Crossing tower:  The tower which sometimes occurs above the space at the intersection of the nave, chancel, and transept of a church.  (M)

cross-vault    Also called a “groin vault”; a tunnel vault intersected at right angles by another tunnel vault of the same size; a series of such vaults along the nave at a high or cornice level can provide lighting for the nave. (C)

cruet    See:

crucifix    See Archaeology of the Cross and Crucifix:

    Altar Crucifix:

    The Cross and Crucifix in Liturgy:

cruciform plan    A floor or ground plan laid out in the shape of a cross. (C)

cuartel    Barrack. (F)

cupola    (Spanish cúpula):  A rounded roof; a dome, but usually on a smaller scale; a lantern. (C)

curb-stone    A stone or row of stones that constitutes a curb. (C)

dado    Painted or colored band around the interior wall, typically just above the floor. (H)  In architectural terminology, the dado, borrowed from Italian meaning die or plinth, is the lower part of a wall, below the dado rail and above the skirting board. (K)

dentil    Decorative motif of alternately projecting elements. (H)


from the Cross    Sculptures representing the thirteenth Station of the Cross used in ceremonies during religious holy days. (C)

dado            Decoration on the lower part of an interior wall. (B)

dedo    Unit of measuring equaling 9 líneas; or .0175  meters; or .690 inches. (G)

diadem            A crown worn by sculptures of saints and other holy persons. (C)

diptych            See:

dome:    A cupola; a convex roof, usually circular at the base and semicircular or paraboloid in elevation. (C)

drip-line    A line below the eave of a roof where water dripping from it makes contact with the ground. (H)

drum    A vertical wall, usually cylindrical (or polygonal) in plan, used to support a dome.  The drum often has openings or windows for lighting the interior below. (C)

drywell    Hole filled with gravel that acts as a drain pit for runoff from a roof or site. (H)

earthen    In this handbook refers to the predominant use of local soils in construction or repair. (H)

east end    The end of the church where the main altar is placed and where the main part of the service takes place. Generally, medieval churches were oriented toward the east. However, topography of the land or other factors may have prevented an absolute east- west orientation for a church. The term east end, is generally used to describe the area where the main altar is placed in a medieval church, even in those cases where the church is not oriented exactly toward the east. Some buildings, notably Old Saint Peter’s in Rome, were oriented to the west.  (M)

eave    The overhand of a pitched roof. (H)

Ecclesiastical art    See:


embroidery    See:  Also see under Ecclesiastical art:

enamels    See under Ecclesiastical art:

encarnación    See below under “estofado.”

enconchado        Decorative use of opalescent shell. (B)

ensamblador        A joiner or carpenter who assembles a retablo. (A)

entablature    Group of horizontal members resting on columns or pilasters of one of the Classic Orders. (A)  The horizontal section above columns or pilasters.  In classical architecture and its derivatives, the entablature is divided into three horizontal parts from bottom to top:  the architrave, the frieze, and the cornice.  Each of the orders had a characteristic entablature, with special decorative enrichment of the parts. (C)

epistle side    Right side of the altar as one faces it. (C)

espadaña    Wall flush with, but above, the façade pierced with arched openings containing bells; used instead of a tower. (A) Type of companario; a gable or projecting wall pierced with openings where bells are hung. (B)  (Spanish):  An extension of a façade with openings in which bells are hung. (C)  Extension of a wall, pierced with arches from which to hang bells. (F)

estado    Unit of measurement equaling 2 varas; or 1.67 meters; or 1.83 yards . The estado was originally the mean stature of a man.  It came to equal 7 feet or 2-1/3 varas when used in measuring depth and altitude. (G)

estípite    A “column” square in plan with tapered bottom and formed of several sections giving the appearance of stacked parts. (A)  (Spanish):  Special pillar or pilaster made up of a base, inverted obelish, and various blocks and moldings (sometimes medallions as well), crowned with a Corinthianesque capital.  First used in a developed form in the later seventeenth century.  Became a type of “order” in mid- and later-eighteenth centural viceregal Mexico. (C)  Pyramid-shaped pillar or baluster; decorative element making up a portion of a column or pillar. (H)

estofado    Decorative technique used on statuary wherein layers of paint or gilding are scratched or pricked to reveal patterns underneath, simulating brocade cloth. (B)  (Spanish):  Figural and ornamental sculptural technique, involving the coating of carved wood with layers of fine gesso as a foundation for gilding and polychromy.  A special variant relating to faces and hands is called encarnación. (C) The elaborate painted emulations of costly woven textiles called estofado (after the word estofa, meaning a type of quilted silk) involved the layering of gold or silver leaf over a gesso base, followed by an overlay of oil paint or a translucent glaze. In some regions, the paint was scratched through in a pattern to show the metallic surface below. In others, the lustrous surface was overlaid with painted gold patterns. (J)

Evangelical side    (also Gospel side):  Left side of the altar as one faces it. (C)

façade    The front or frontispiece of a building. (C)

filter fabric    (geo-textile/landscape fabric) – non-woven polyester fabric that separates soil from water, preventing drainage systems from clogging and prevents unwanted vegetation from taking root. (H)

finish coat    Final “set” or “color” coat of plaster. (H)


of Christ    Scene of Jesus being scourged and crucified by Pilate’s soldiers; sometimes included in depictions of the Stations of the Cross. (C)

flashing    System, typically of metal, that directs water away from vulnerable areas on roofs and from around doors and windows. (H)

fluting    Vertical channeling (usually concave) of a columnar or pilaster shaft.  Used to describe the painted “fluted pilasters” on the Concepción belfries. (C)

fogón    fireplace located in the corner of a room. (H)

footing    Base of the foundation or subsurface system, beneath the stem wall. (H)

fresco    Painting executed on wet plaster, which allows the paint to bond with the wall surface and results in a durable finish. (B)

fresco seco    Dry fresco murals (rgm)

frieze    Decoration on the upper portion of an interior wall. (B)  Middle horizontal division of an entablature (q.v.).  Decorated characteristically for each religious order and its variations. (C)

frontispiece    The main façade of a building or its principal entrance. (C)

gable end    Triangular-shaped end wall supporting a pitched roof. (H)

gesso    Plaster of paris, gypsum, or chalk prepared with glue for use in painting or making bas-reliefs. (B)

glazing    Pane of glass in a window. (H)

gold leaf    Burnished metallic paints on wood.  (rgm)

gravel    Term used to describe aggregates that are larger than sand but smaller than cobbles. (H)

Greek cross    An equilateral cross. (C)

Grisaille    A painting executed entirely in monochrome, in a series of grays. (C)

half column    See “column.”

half-lapped joint    Joint between two boards in which one-half the thickness of each board is removed and the two pieces overlap. (H)

head trim    Decorative element over a window or door. (H)

hemicycle    The group of columns, arranged in a semicircular formation, that divide the east end of a choir from the ambulatory.  (M)

hood molding    A projecting molding on the wall above an arch. (M) Hood mould or dripstone, an architectural feature for handling rain water. (K)

horcόn construction    Forked pole frame work. (F)

horno    Spanish term for a beehive-shaped earthen oven. (H)

ICOMOS    International Council on Monuments and Sites.

INAH    Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (México). (H)

imagen para vestir    Statue with moveable joints that can be dressed in different

    costumes. (B)

Imagenes    Freestanding images of Christ, saints, and the Holy Family believed by European missionaries to facilitate devotion, and closely patterned after Spanish models. At times the figures were dressed in actual clothes and adorned with donated jewels. In many sculptures, however, garments were carved and painted to simulate cloth.


manuscripts    See:

intervention    Conservation or preservation actions that require removal of or change to historic material. (B)

ironwork    The earliest Spanish explorers, including Cortés, were aware of iron ore deposits in the New World. Ironworking was the first craft to be regulated in New Spain when in 1524 price controls were legislated. In 1552 Gínes Vásquez de Mercado found the first major iron ore deposit in northern Mexico at Cerro de Mercado. Through the years other sources of iron were encountered, but they were not seriously developed until after Mexico’s independence in 1821. This was partially the result of the Spanish Crown’s restriction against the production of iron in New Spain, enacted in an effort to protect its own iron industry, and partially the result of the preference in Mexico for extracting valuable silver ore. Consequently, iron and steel were imported from Spain either in bulk form as sheets or in bars or as worked pieces. Long before their arrival in New Mexico, Spaniards knew iron objects were valuable to Native Americans. The Oñate expedition brought large quantities of small metal utensils and trinkets, including awls, thimbles, hawk’s bells and religious medallions, to New Mexico specifically for trade with the Pueblo and Plains Indians. Throughout the colonial period all types of metal objects were important trade items among Spaniards and Pueblo and Plains Indians.

Several Spanish settlers who came to New Mexico with the Oñate expedition were trained blacksmiths. Other settlers were capable of making minor items and repairs as well. Although Oñate had been instructed by the king to “teach the Indians…in such a way that, upon learning the trades, they may apply themselves and attract others to them,” little seems to have been done to this end by the Spanish civilians, other than what was required for the production of trade items, such as painted hides, woven textiles, and knitted woolen stockings. The friars, however, set up workshops at the missions where the Pueblo Indians were instructed in various trades, particularly blacksmithing and carpentry. In the seventeenth century there was an armory in the casas reales and there were probably several blacksmith shops in Santa Fe. [excerpted from an article by Donna Pierce in Spanish New Mexico, The Spanish Colonial Arts Society Collection] (L)

jacal    Construction of closely placed vertical stick framing filled with mud and grasses. (B)  or xacal (Spanish):  Hut; crude dwelling. (C)  jacál:  method of building walls using upright posts chinked with mud and stone. (H)

jambs    The sides of a doorway or a window. (C)  wooden mountings around windows and doors. (H)

jamb figures    Statues carved on the jambs of a doorway or window. Jamb statues were often human figures- either religious figures or secular or ecclesiastical leaders. (M)

jaspe    Spanish word for gypsum; refers specifically to a gypsum-based whitewash. (H)

Jerusalem cross    A cross with four arms, each terminating in a crossbar. (C)

joist    Board in a floor or ceiling that stands on edge and to which the decking is attached. (H)

keystone    The central stone of an arch; sometimes carved. (C)     The voussoir at the top of an arch; in vaulting it occurs at the intersection of the ribs of a rib vault. It is important structurally since it marks the apex of the vault. (M)

kiva    Ceremonial chamber used by Native Americans. (H)

ladrillo    Fired, flat tile used for construction; usually rectangular. (B) Flat brick used for paving or roofing. (F)

lap joints    Half-lapped joints; see definition for half-lapped joints above. (H)

lath    Mechanism used to mechanically bond plasters to walls; can be wire mesh, wood strips, rajuelas or other material. (H)

latillas    Small wooden poles laid horizontally over the vigas or beams that provide a deck for the roof; also called sabinos. (H)

Latin cross    A cross with a longitudinal member and shorter transverse members; the type of cross used in the Crucifixion of Christ. (C)

lavandería    Basin with flowing water for washing clothes. (B)

legua    Unit of measurement equaling 5,000 varas; or 4,190 meters; or 2.60 miles. Variation of note:  The Mexican league at the beginning of the colonial period was equal to 4,179 meters, or 3,000 pasos de Solomón. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century Mexico, land titles are in terms of the Mexican league divided into marcos, each marco being equal to 2-7/8 varas. (G)

lienzo    Painted canvas altar screen depicting a retablo. (B)

línea    Unit of measurement equaling 12 puntos; or .0019 meters; or .076 inches. (G)

lime    Calcium carbonate used as a permeable mortar and plaster in earthen buildings. (H)

lime plaster    Coating for walls and ceilings made of quick-lime and sand mixed with water that hardens when dry. (B)

línea    12 puntos; or .0019 meters; or .076 inches. Variations of note:  “narrow línea” referred to .0019 meters; “wide línea” referred to 2- 7/8 varas, used in measuring land. (G)

lintel    The horizontal beam framing the top of a door or other opening. (C)  Beam or log over an opening, such as a door. (H)  A flat horizontal beam which spans the space between two supports.  (M)

lunette    Any semicircular opening or surface, as on the wall of a vaulted room. (C)

mampostería    Stone rubble and cement mixed to form a wall; at times covered with a coat of stucco. (A)

manta    Cloth attached to the bottoms of the vigas or beams to create a ceiling and to catch dirt filtering down from the roof. (H)

mayordomo    Lay caretaker of a church. (H)

merlon     Short decorative element, square with a pyramidal peak, often seen on atrio walls. (A)

metal-work    See:

mission    Temporary category of a church on its way to becoming a parish. (A)  Community of Roman Catholic clergy, baptized Native American converts, and guards, and encompassing grazing and agricultural lands and local industries; also the physical buildings. (B)

monjerio    Separate living quarters at a mission for single Indian women. (B)  Dormitory for unmarried women and girls. (F)

monitor    In this handbook refers to a device or method used to keep track of movements in cracks. (H)

monstrance    Decorated metal vessel with a transparent section used to display the host. (B)

mortar    Binder used to join two masonry units such as bricks or adobes. (H)

mosaic    See

mucilage    Juice extracted from plants and used as a binder in traditional plasters. (H)

mud    The primary component in earthen buildings, a combination of clays, silts, aggregates, water and sometimes straw. (H)

mudsill    Plate at the top of the foundation systems, placed to accept framing. (H)

mudéjar    Refers to Moorish influences reflected in the art and architecture of Spain. (B)

muntin bars    the grid in a window used to hold glazing in places. (H)

mural            Paintings executed directly on walls or ceilings (B)

NAGPRA        Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. (H)

nave    Longitudinal axis of a single-nave church extending either to transept or to sanctuary; the great central space in a basilica. (A) The large portion of the church in front of the altar where the congregation gathers. (B)  Architecturally the central, open space of a church, west of the choir or chancel, and separated therefrom by a low wall or screen.  It is divided from the side aisles by columns, shafts or piers, is roofed with timber or vaulted in masonry, and usually rises above the level of the aisle roofts to provide high windows for lighting.  Colloquially, the term si used to indicate that portion of the church reserved for worshippers, and including the central and side aisles, crossing transepts.  The name is derived from the Latin navis, a ship, possibly with some reference to the “ship of St. Peter” or the Ark of Noah. … (E) Cram, R.A. (1911). Nave. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved September 7, 2011 from New Advent:

    The central longitudinal space of a Basilican church. It is usually flanked on its long sides by aisles which are separated from the nave by columns or piers. In many churches, the lay congregation stands in the nave to attend religious services.  Other parts of a church: ambulatory, apse, choir, crossing, east end, choir, transept, west end.  (M)

niche    A recess in a wall for holding a sculpture or other ornament. (C)

nichos    Recessed openings or open-sided containers holding representations of saints. (B)  nicho:  Spanish word for niche; a small recess in a wall. (H)

obraje    (Spanish):  Work or workshop in the mission where Indians worked.  (C)

ochavado arch    (Spanish for octagonal):  An arch in the shape of a half-octagon. (C)

óculo     Window, usually circular, placed in a church façade above the main entrance to provide light to the choir. (A)

oficina    (Spanish):  A workplace where something is manufactured. (C)

ogee window    A shape comprised of a double-curved line made up of a convex and concave part. (C)  Also see “arch”.

ogival    Arches of ogee or double curved shape. (C)  Also see “arch”.

Orders    The basic columnar types of the classical-oriented architectural world; the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian of the Greeks and the Doric, Tuscan, Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite of the Roman, Renaissance, and later eras. (C)  See also “Classic Order.”

oriel    A projecting bay window on an upper floor, supported from below with corbels or brackets. (C)


niche-pilaster    A figure niche, with massing of ornament above and below, made into a quasi-pilaster; especially common in New Spain between 1770 and 1790. (C)

palisado    Building constructed of palisades, chinked with mud and, usually roofed with thatch or tules. (F)

palmo    Unit of measurement equaling 9 pulgados; or .209 meters; or 8.23 inches. palmo mayor  or palmo romano:  12 dedos; or .2218 meters; or 8.73 inches.  palmo menor:  4 dedos; or .0739 meters; or 2.91 inches. (G)

parapet            Wall projecting above the roof line to conceal the vaulting. (A)

parroquia         Parish church with resident pastor. (A)

paso de cuadra    The quarter pace was common for urban building sites, each side of a lot measuring 141 feet (69 paces of 2 feet, and 1 of 3 feet), or later on, 150 feet. (G)

pedestal    In classic architecture, the base supporting a column or colonnade; also the abase for a sculpture. (C)

pediment    In Greek architecture the triangular, topmost feature of the Classic Order; in Renaissance and neoclassic architecture a triangular decorative feature, often part of a façade. (A)  A low-pitched gable or triangular area formed by the two slopes of a temple in classical architecture; framed by horizontal and raking cornices; sometimes used for sculptures. (C)  Decorative element, often triangular, above a window or door. (H)

pendentive    A spherical triangle used as the transition from a squared space to a drum or dome. (C)

peόn    Unskilled hand. (F)

pie    Unit of measurement equaling 12 pulgados or 16 dedos; or .279 meters; or 10.97 inches. (G)

pier    Small concrete, stone or block that supports a floor joist as a vertical support column. (H)  An upright support, generally square, rectangular, or composite. In medieval architecture there are massive circular supports called drum piers. Types of pier: compound, drum. See also: alternation of support

pila    Baptismal font or a water trough for drinking. (F)

pilaster    Flat, vertical member projecting from the wall with column-like features derived from one of the Classic Orders; a decorative element. (A)  A flattened columnar form, rectilinear in shape, always attached to a wall. (C)

pillar    A slender architectural support, usually rather tall; sometimes squared or rounded. (C)

pintle hinge    Rudimentary hinge that mates a peg on the ends of a door with corresponding holes in the jamb. (H)

plane    Action of smoothing a board with a blade. (H)

Plateresque    A style of architecture and ornament combining late Gothic and Renaissance elements. (C)

polyptych    See diptych:

portal    A doorway or entrance; especially one that is large and imposing. (C)  Porch or partially enclosed area attached to an elevation of a building. (H)

point    Action of filling the joints between bricks with new mortar material. (H)

portal    Any doorway or entrance but especially one that is large and imposing. See also jamb, lintel, trumeau. (M)

portería    Arcaded open porch or vestibule at the main entrance to a convento where visitors were received or could wait for the appearance of a friar. (A)   (Spanish):  the entrance to the friary in sixteenth-century conventual architecture in viceregal Mexico. (C)

Portland cement    Most common hydraulic cements (i.e. capable of hardening underwater) used in the early twentieth century, popular because of its strength and impermeability. (B)  produced from limestone at a very high temperature; a durable and non-permeable material used commercially for mortars and plasters. (H)

posa    One of four small chapels in the corners of an atrio at which a pause was made during religious processions around the atrio; often had an altar. (A)

pottery    Of the 2,500 types of Southwestern pottery identified by archaeologists virtually all are Native American. It is also clear that the development of pottery in Hispanic villages of New Mexico has been prevalent for centuries and that cross cultural borrowing took place with the indigenous population. Utilitarian micaceous pottery was first exhibited at Spanish Market in 1992. This pottery is hand formed by the coil method using material gathered from ancient micaceous clay pits in northern New Mexico. After thorough drying, the vessels are buffed with sandstone, painstakingly burnished with a smooth stone, then fired outdoors over wood. The fine black lines result from the artisan’s careful application of horsehair to the smoldering vessel. Gray or black “Fireclouds” are produced when burning embers fall against the pottery. This ware can be used for cooking and serving food or purely for decoration. (L)

pozolera    Kitchen or building where pozole (stew) is cooked. (F)

predella    The base of a large altarpiece (retablo), frequently decorated with painted “predella panels” or sculpture expanding the theme of the major panel or panels above. (C)  the base of an altarpiece; especially:  one containing decorated panels depicting scenes relate to the main panel or panels. (Italian: first known use 1853). (D)

Presbytery    The section of the church reserved for the higher clergy. (C)

preservation    The at or process of applying measures necessary to sustain the existing form, integrity, and materials of a historic site or object.  Work generally focuses on the ongoing maintenance and repair of original materials and features rather than extensive replacement and new construction. (B)

presidio    Fort; military installation housing soldiers, their arms and equipment, their families, and a church. (B)

puddled mud    Method of building walls in which the mud is stacked free form into courses. (H)

pulpit    See:

pulgada    Unit of measurement equaling 12 líneas; or .0233 meters; or .916 inches. (G)

purlins    Boards spanning the tops of the rafters, usually with several inches of open space in between and to which roofing material is attached. (H)

quatrefoil frames    Shapes comprised of four lobes or foils (C)

rafter    Board installed on the edge of a pitched roof to which purlins or decking are attached. (H)

rajas    Similar to latillas; split poles used as decking atop vigas. (H)

rajuela    Stones embedded in masonry joints that serve as laths for lime plaster. (H)

raking cornice    See “Pediment.”

ranchería    Indian village or settlement, usually used by the Spanish to refer to non-Christian Indians, but the term became widely used for any Native American community. (B)

refectory    A room where meals are served. (C)

Renaissance    A style of art and architecture of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries A.D.  Characterized by harmony of parts, (symmetrical) balance, and clarity, strongly influenced by classical sources. (C)

reconstruction    The act or process of depicting by means of new construction the form, features, and detailing of a non-surviving site, landscape, building, structure, or object for the purpose of replicating its appearance at a specific period in time and in its historic location. (B)

repoussé    Metalworking; a design hammered into relief from the reverse side. (C)

reja    Large metal screen extending from floor to ceiling in a convent church which separates the nuns in their coro from the public attending Mass. (A)

reliquary    Container holding a relic of a saint. (B)  See:

render    Typically refers to an exterior plaster. (B)

reredos    (Spanish):  An ornamental screen behind an altar.  Some writers use this word in place of retable or retablo. (C)  altar screen. (H)

retablo    Gilt altarpiece consisting of many sections of paintings or sculptures.  English:  “retable.” (A)  From the low Latin retaulus (retro-tabula), something “behind the table” or altar.  Usually in Spain and viceregal Mexico a large screen to enhance an altar.  (The Spanish word altar [q.v.] was more commonly used than retablo in the literature of the viceregal period.) (C) Two-dimensional representation of a saint or saints; a painting on panel. (H)

retablo mayor    The retablo occupying the entire (east) end of the sanctuary/apse wall. (A)

reredos    French term for retablo. (B)

restoration    The act or process of accurately depicting the form, features, and characters of a property as it appeared at a particular period by means of the removal of features from other periods in its history and reconstruction of missing features from the period of its restoration. (B)

retablo    Elaborate backdrop behind the altar that depicts or holds religious images, made of wood, stone, or plaster, or painted on canvas or directly on the wall. (B)  Retablos are flat wooden panels that are painted on one side with images of Christian iconography. (L)

retrofitting    Strengthening a building to withstand earthquakes (B)

reverbero    Wall candleholders back with fragments of mirror that reflect the flame. (B)

refectory    Dining room in a monastery.  (M)

rib    An arch of masonry, often molded, which forms part of the framework on which a vault rests. Ribs generally project from the undersurface of the vault.  See also rib vault.  Types of ribs: diagonal rib, lierne, ridge rib, tierceron, transverse rib. (M)

ridge    Peak of a pitched roof, supported by the ridge board and sealed with the ridge cap. (H)

rise    (of an arch or vault):  The vertical distance between the spring line of an arch or vault and the keystone or boss. (M)

Roman arch    A round “true arch” made of voussoirs. (C)

Rose window    a round window, usually with tracery. (C) See note below.

Note:    Rose window:  A circular window, with mullions and traceries generally radiating from the centre, and filled with stained glasses. The term is suggested by the fancied resemblance of the window with its traceries to the rose and its petals. The rose window is one of the most beautiful and characteristic features of medieval architecture, especially of the French Gothic, in which it achieved its most perfect development. Its origin is to be found in the Roman oculus. During the Romanesque period the oculus became a window, and from about the middle of the twelfth century its dimensions began to increase with the development of gothic of Gothic architecture. By the middle of the thirteenth century it had attained the greatest possible size — the entire width of the nave. Its possible size — the entire width of the nave. Its splendour continued in France until the misfortunes of the later fourteenth and fifteenth centuries prevented the construction of large churches. The most beautiful examples of rose windows are to be found in the Ile de France and the adjoining provinces, Picardy and Champagne. The earliest important examples are the west rose of the Cathedral of Mantes (c. 1200); the west rose of Notre Dame of Paris (c. 1220), the most beautiful of all, and those of Laon and Chartres. In all these cases the rose was put under a circular arch. The next important step was to put it under a pointed arch, as was done in the beautiful rose windows of the Cathedral of Reims, 1230, as well in the transepts as in the later roses of the façade. Thereupon the rose was inscribed in square, with pierced spandrils as in the transepts of Notre Dame of Paris (1257). The last step was to place the rose in the tier of lower windows, in which case it became the centre of a vast window composition, covering the whole end of the transepts, as in Rouen Cathedral.

In England the use of the rose window was usually confined to the transepts, although roses of great span were constructed in Byland Abbey and in the east front of Old St. Paul’s, London. In Germany it was more frequently used as well in the Romanesque as in the Gothic period; a fine example is in the façade of the Cathedral of Strassburg. In Italy it was particularly used by the Lombard architects, as in San Zeno, Verona, and in the Cathedral of Modena, and in the Tuscan Gothic churches like the Cathedrals of Siena and Orvieto. These rose were always filled with stained glasses of great beauty, adding not a little to the picturesque effect of the interior of the cathedral.  (E)

Kriehn, G. (1912). Rose Window. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved September 7, 2011 from New Advent:

Sacristy    Room adjoining the church where religious items and vestments are kept. (B)  (sacristía in Spanish):  A room for robing the clergy. (C)

sala    Sitting room for receiving guests. (B)  Large “living” room. (H)

sanctuary    Area, enclosed by the apse, containing the altar; often referred to as chancel. (A)  Sacred area in the front of the church, behind the communion rail. (B)

Salomόnica    (Spanish):  A Solomonic column, that is, one with a twisted shaft, usually with a Corinthianesque capital, and a base.  So called from the presumed use of such columns in Solomon’s temple. (C)

Sanctuary    The part of the church where the altar is placed. (C)

sand    Small aggregate used in the making of mud. (H)

Santos    In New Mexico, images of saints (santos) were known as bultos (sculptures) and retablos (paintings on wood). Local woods–aspen and cottonwood root for bultos and pine for retablos–were used; water-based paints were made from local and imported vegetal and mineral pigments.Religious images were brought to New Mexico by the first settlers in 1598 and were imported throughout the seventeenth century.

Period documents describe the presence of sculptures, paintings on canvas and copper, engravings, gilded tabernacles, and gilded altar screens from Mexico. During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, most Christian imagery was destroyed.

In the late 1700s increasing numbers of religious images made in New Mexico took their place alongside imported pieces in churches and homes. Grounded in the Spanish Catholic tradition and evolving art styles of Europe, a unique local aesthetic peculiar to New Mexico developed on the northern frontier of New Spain. At least a dozen santeros, or saint-makers, were active in New Mexico by the 1820s and had developed a style that is distinctly New Mexican in character.  [excerpted from an article by Donna Pierce in Spanish New Mexico, The Spanish Colonial Arts Society Collection] (L).  Wood, gesso, and clay sculpture (rgm).

sash    The part of a window containing mutins and glazing. (H)

scratch coat    First or leveling coat of plaster. (H)

screed bar    Straight edge installed temporarily as a guide in leveling material for walks and floors; part of a comprehensive system of chalk lines, stakes and screed bars. (H)

segmental pediment    the upper cornice of a pediment that takes the curve of a segment of a circle. (C)

selenite    Translucent mineral of the gypsum family used as glazing in windows before glass was available; similar to sheet mica. (H)

shaft    Section of a column or pilaster between the capital and base. (C)  The structural member which serves as the main support of a column or pier. The shaft is between the capital and the base.  (M)

shake    Roofing shingle that is split not sawn. (H)

shear    In this handbook refers to the downward movement of part of a wall resulting in a structural crack. (H)

shim    Thin wedge used as a spacer to help hold door and window jambs, scaffolding, adobes undergoing repair and vigas and beams in place. (H)

shingle    thin roofing element, usually made of cedar that is sawn not split. (H)

shoring    Process or system of installing supports to take the load off a falling wall or to hold it in place. (H)

shoring jack    Adjustable pole used to temporarily support a roof.  (H)


sill    Also called a plate; structural wooden element that runs continuously around a building at floor level and at roof level. (H)

silt    Finest soil found in mud; defined by its particle size. (H)

sleepers    Ties or grade beams that rest directly on the ground and provide a point of support for a floor or other structural element. (H)

slump    (In this handbook refers to) the movement of an earthen material that is too wet and cannot supports its own weight. (H)

soffit    The underside on an arch,opening, or overhanging projection. (M)

sounding board    A structure suspended behind or over a pulpit to reflect the speaker’s voice to the audience. (C)

spandrel    Space between exterior curve of an arch and an enclosing right angle. (A)  The space, usually decorated, between the exterior curve of an arch and the right angle that frames it. (C)  The roughly triangular wall space between two adjacent arches. (M)

springer    The lowest part of spring of an arch; the first stone of an arch placed on the impost (cap of the supporting pier or pillar). (C)  The lowest voussoir on each side of an arch. It is where the vertical support for the arch terminates and the curve of the arch begins. (M)

spring line        The point or line at which an arch or vault begins to curve.

See also arch, rise, span.  (M)

stained glass

standing seam    Metal roofing material that is joined at the edges by the overlap of one break or fold over another. (H)

Stations of the Cross    Fourteen formalized events that occurred as Jesus walked the road to Calvary; depictions of these events are typically hung along the walls of the church nave. (B)  Christ’s journey to Calvary, usually divided into fourteen scenes or stations, a series of devotions initiated by the Franciscans in the fourteenth century focusing on this event includes each picture in sequence, with specific prayers and devotions. (C) See “Via Sacra.”

straw    Dried stalk of any of a number of grasses that are used in some adobe mud. (H)

straw applique

and inlay    Although the historical and artistic evolution of the art form remains undocumented, straw appliqué decoration on chests, boxes, and crosses in New Mexico appears to be a variation of European marquetry work. Marquetry is a method used to decorate a surface with small, thin pieces of variously colored and contrasting materials, such as woods, metals, ivory, bone, tortoiseshell, and mother-of-pearl. In marquetry work two techniques of manufacture are employed.

One technique is called inlay; the other is called veneer. In inlay, the surface of an object is slightly carved out, leaving shallow cavities in which thin decorative pieces are placed. In veneer marquetry, decorative pieces are fitted together into a thin sheet and then applied to the surface of an object. Straw work in New Mexico appears to be a simplified combination of the two techniques, with the decorative fragments covering only portions of the surface, as in inlaid marquetry work, but with the pieces inset, as in veneer-like marquetry work.

Current thought holds that the art of straw appliqué died out in New Mexico in the late nineteenth century and was revived in the early twentieth century by master artist Eliseo Rodriguez. The use of straw appliqué by Jose Dolores Lopez in the late 1920s may indicate an overlap of survival and revival in this ephemeral but enduring art. [excerpted from an article by Donna Pierce inSpanish New Mexico, The Spanish Colonial Arts Society Collection] (L)

tabernacle    Cupboard-like receptacle on the altar where the consecrated host and wine are kept. (B)  A receptacle for the consecrated Host and wine of the Eucharist. (C)

talud and tablero    A distinctive prehispanic building form consisting of a large rectangular panel (tablero) set upon a smaller outward sloping base (talud). (A)  talud:  A sloping foundation on top of the footing and at the base of a wall. (F)

teja    Curved, fired tile used for roofing. (B)

tequítqui    Relief sculpture, usually associated with sixteenth-century Mexico, combining European motifs with an indigenous sense of pattern and technique resulting in a flat surface with sharply profiled designs. (A)  A term used in Mexico to describe viceregal art, usually low-relief stone carving that reflects an indigenous sensibility. (C)

terneplate    Corrugated steel roofing. (H)

terrado    Flat roofs of compacted earth sealed with plaster. (F)

tinwork    The 1821 opening of the Santa Fe Trail coincided with the worldwide acceptance and use of British tinplate and an increased popularity of tin crafts. In New Mexico, imported tinplate became more readily available. The increase in tinplate crafts and the immigration of Anglo tinsmiths to New Mexico during the period are well documented.

The 1930s also saw the revival of “poor man’s silver,” the tin art, much of it religious that began to flourish after the United States Army occupied New Mexico in 1846. The appearance of imported tin cans coupled with Bishop Lamy’s 1850 appointment to New Mexico in part caused certain forms of local religious art, such as retablos, to fall out of fashion while European prints framed in tin came into vogue.  Until 1890, when commercial picture frames began to replace tin frames and coal and gas lighting replaced the need for candle holders, tin artists provided art made for pennies that today sells for thousands. Lane Coulter and Maurice Dixon, Jr. claim that “the New Mexican production of tinwork primarily for religious purposes is unparalleled elsewhere in American folk arts.” [excerpted from an article by Donna Pierce in Spanish New Mexico, The Spanish Colonial Arts Society Collection]. (L)

top plate    Horizontal member at the top of a frame or masonry wall placed to accept roof-framing system; see definition for sill above. (H)

torre    Four-sided bell tower. (B)

torreon    Round tower, used for defensive purposes. (H)

torta    Spanish for the dried mud membrane over the latillas or cedros; one component of an earthen roof.  (H)

tower    A high squared or rounded structure; generally squared in New Spain and used singly or in a pair to frame a church façade. (C)

transept    Cross arms, set at ninety degrees to the longitudinal axis, to form a cruciform church. (A)  The interior space of a church at right angles to the nave; where the transept intersects the nave is the crossing, which often has a dome-shaped covering higher than the nave or transept.  The transept has many orientations in Mexico. (C)  A rectangular area which cuts across the main axis of a basilica-type building and projects beyond it. The transept gives a basilica the shape of a Latin cross and usually serves to separate the main area of the building from an apse at the end.  (M)


triumphal arch    Largest arch in a church; proclaims entrance into the sanctuary. (A)

trumeau    Vertical architectural member between the leaves of a doorway. Trumeaus were often highly decorated. (M)

trumeau figure    Statue decorating a trumeau. Usually this was a human figure, very often a religious personage. (M)

Tuscan style    (Tuscan order):  One of the classical orders resembling the Doric but of greater simplicity. (C)

tympanum    (plural, tympana): The basically semicircular area enclosed by the arch above the lintel of an arched entranceway. This area is often decorated with sculpture in the Romanesque and Gothic periods. See also: lintel, portal. (M)

Ultra-Baroque    See “Baroque.”

valley    Low line of the junction of two pitched roofs. (H)

valley flashing    Material, usually sheet metal, that prevents water running down the valley from getting underneath the roofing. (H)

vara    Unit of lineal measurement, usually equaling 33-1/3 inches. (F)  3 pies or 4 palmos; or .838 meters; or 32.99 inches. Variation of note:  A sub-division of the Mexican vara based on the old vara of Toledo, used by miners and surveyors:  1 vara = .8359 meters = 48 dedos or .0174 meters.  It was called the old vara or Solomon’s pace. (G)

viga    Large ceiling beam or joist. (F)

vault    Ceiling or roof of brick or stone built on the principle of the arch. (A)  A masonry arched roof. (C)

vernacular    (In this handbook refers to) buildings that were not designed by an architect.  (H)

Via Crucis    Set of fourteen Stations of the Cross (see Stations of the Cross above).  (B)

Via Sacra    (also Via Dolorosa, road of Sorrows; Via Crucis, Stations of the Cross):  Sacred Way; a reference to the Stations of the Cross. (C)

vidrios    Nicho enclosed in glass, for keeping statues. (B)

viga    A log laid across the top of a wall, often extending beyond it, to form a roof structure. (A)  A log stripped of bark and used as the principal support in the roof system of an earthen building. (H)

voussoir    One of the parts of an arch; the apex voussoirs is the keystone. (C)  One of the wedge-shaped stones used in constructing an arch. See also: arch, archivolt. Types of voussoirs: key stone, springer. (M)

wainscoting    A functional and/or decorative element installed around the interior walls of a building.  A functional wainscoting is typically made of wood, but a decorative one, like a dado, may be painted on the surface of the wall. (H)

wattle and daub    Method of building with earth in which mud is applied to an upright wood or wicker frame.  (H)


west end    The area of the church opposite the east end. The west end usually functions as the main entrance to the church. When one enters a church from the west end, the left side is the north side, and the right is the south side.  (M)

wheat paste    Compound of wheat flour and water used for decorative purposes on interior adobe walls. (H)

wood relief carving    See

wood carvings

zaguán    Wide passageway for carretas. (B)  Covered vestibule that connects the exterior of a house to an inner patio; typically large enough to permit animals and wagons to pass. (H)

zambullo    Spanish term for the pintle hinge of a door. (H)

zapata    Similar in appearance to a corbel, but used at the top of a post to provide support where two horizontal beams are joined. (H)

zoquete    Leftover piece of wood. (H)

Sources are keyed to each glossary entry by way of the corresponding letter noted below:

(A)      Mullen, Robert J.  1997.  Architecture and Its Sculpture in Viceregal Mexico.  Austin:  University of Texas Press.

(B)    Kimbro, Edna E.; Costello, Julia G. with Ball, Tevvy.  2009.  The California Missions:  History, Art and Preservation.  Los Angeles:  The Getty Conversation Institute.

(C)    Quirarte, Jacinto.  2002.  The Art and Architecture of the Texas Missions.  Austin:  University of Texas Press.


(E)  See individual citations.

(F)    Schuetz-Miller, Mardith K. 1994.  Building and Builders in Hispanic California 1769-1850.  Tucson:  Southwestern Mission Research Center.  Santa Barbara, CA:  A Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, Presidio Research Publication.

(G)    Polzer, Charles William, Ph.D.; Barnes, Thomas C.; Naylor, Thomas H.  1977.  The Documentary Relations of the Southwest Project Manual.  Tucson:  Arizona State Museum; University of Arizona.

(H)    Contreras, Francisco Uviña.  Adobe Conservation:  A Preservation Handbook.  Technical Staff of Cornerstones Community Partnerships.  Santa Fe:  Sunstone Press.

(I)    Schuetz, Mardith K. 1987.  Architectural Practice in Mexico City:  A Manual for Journeyman Architects of the Eighteenth Century.  Tucson:  The University of Arizona Press.

(J)    Source: Polychrome Sculpture in Spanish America | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art


(L)     Spanish Colonial Arts Society.


Transcription:  Shari Harder, 2011