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patio escondido history
Entrance to Patio Escondido in Old Town ABQ

Patio Escondido Mall in Old Town, Albuquerque was once home to the Sagrada, a sacred arts school founded by Dominican Sister Giotto Moots in 1969. Sister Giotto, a Graduate and Dean of Villa Schifanoia in Florence Italy, received permission to open the self-sustaining program with a mission of nurturing artists in the growth and development of their creative expression. Doing this in New Mexico was of particular interest to Sister Giotto due to the spirit of the Native American and Hispanic cultural influences that are present here. She believed those influences were congruent with those of the artist.


Within the campus was Joseph’s Table, an income producing, student-staffed dining hall, an Art Gallery which displayed the work of the students, two story residential studios, accommodating up to 12 students at a time, and the chapel, Capilla de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Within the Chapel, a shrine is built in her honor. While Catholic in concept, the Sagrada was intended to welcome all non-Catholic and non-Christian artists.


Today, the Chapel is a sacred public place in Albuquerque’s Old Town providing comfort to those seeking a sanctuary for quiet prayer and meditation. It is available for personal use for weddings, baptisms, renewal ceremonies, memorial services, and other special events. All are welcome.


The residences were constructed as an integral part of the Sagrada Art Studios. The development and construction were completed by Sister Giotto Moots with the help of her sister nuns and the blessings of the Vatican. The residences provided shelter for the nuns and students at the Sagrada Art Studios.


The Chapel

The Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Old Town Albuquerque was built for the students of Sagrada Art Studios. The students needed a suitable place to pray as a group. The Chapel and its magical surrounding Patio are now used to host guests from around the world 365 days per year, as originally intended. It also hosts weddings and ceremonies for all. The epic history, unique Chapel, enchanting grounds, and progressive nature of the property are more than words can express. 


The chapel contains an impressive window that was created and made especially for the Sagrada. (Three other windows were also created for the Sagrada, and Sister Giotto herself considers the whole group of four to be her most significant body of work.) Of the original group of four, only one is known to be still serving today as a functional window letting in light. This one is the large striking window to the left of the entryway to the Chapel. Titled Feast Days of the Virgin and Phases of the Moon, and a favorite photographic subject of chapel visitors, it is in reality a rather complex calendar of Marian Feast Days. The center of this window stands for the sun.


Surrounding the center is a light-blue ring intended to represent the sky. A web between the two symbolizes the calendar days of a single year, and the dark-blue outermost rim containing red circles shows the order of the cycles of the moon in one calendar year. The chapel’s second window, now stored, was originally in the Sagrada gallery. It is titled The Seven Days of Creation. The third window, also now stored, was once in the restaurant “Joseph’s Kitchen.” Its title is Seasons of the Year. 


The fourth window is in the possession of Antoine Predock, a prominent Albuquerque architect. It was given to him in exchange for drawing up the blueprints needed to construct the Sagrada. This last window depicts the coming of the Light of the World.​In connection with the original group of four windows, it is worth knowing that Sister Giotto associates the light of the sun with the spiritual Light that is Christ. Catholicism celebrates events in the life of Christ throughout the year beginning with his birth at Christmas. (From the summer solstice until the winter solstice, the light gradually decreases in the Northern Hemisphere; then from the winter solstice—very nearly synchronized with Christmas—the light increases again until the next year’s summer solstice is reached.)


Six wooden benches lining the adobe walls of the sanctuary, three on each side, underscore wooden panels hanging directly above them, each panel hand-carved with a different verse of Scripture. The panels were carved by Sister Giotto and renowned artist Meinrad Craighead. The panels were then stained and lettered in slightly different shades, to subtly illustrate the difference between the energy of the letters and the natural wood material from which the lettering emerges. When Sister Giotto was asked if it would be appropriate to color-highlight the carved scriptures to make them easier for people visiting the Chapel to read, she replied, “The letters are not meant to be painted. The natural material of the panels resonates with a completely different energy than if it were painted.


The spiritual/feminine side of life is not meant to be easy and available and visible. That’s why if you want to be able to read what’s on the panels you have to walk up closely and intimately to see the words. In being so close you may want to feel the ‘doors’ with your fingers and smell the wood. The feminine pulls you in to experience the Beloved. When you have this experience it fills your body, and when you feel the Beloved, He enters your heart. This is what the prayer, meditation and quiet interaction is that feeds us spiritually.”


Today, the panels are maintained in a state as near to their original one as possible. Unfortunately, after the Chapel was damaged by smoke from a fire in 2010, they had to be refinished. Their profound feminine subtlety is now more difficult to sense, yet they continue to usher visitors into quiet contemplation and prayer in the presence of comforting words from Scripture. This rendition of Our Lady was painted after the Chapel was smoke damaged due to a fire in 2010, and is currently being refined. 


The chapel was dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe because of the love the Spanish and Native Americans in New Mexico, as well as the general public, have for her. She is the Patroness of the Americas, and as one of us, her kindness, compassion and forgiveness spurs us on to love one another.

–Sister Giotto Moots


Many weddings and receptions have been held here. Because the Chapel is such an appealing refuge for reflection, prayer and meditation, many often return to celebrate the memory of their wedding. Today, in 2018, the shrine for Our Lady of Guadalupe, is visited by many, on a regular basis. Flowers and are often left as a tribute to her. Prayer requests along with notes of gratitude appear daily. 

Whether you are visiting our historical city, or you are a resident just wanting an afternoon stroll, we invite you to visit the Old Town Plaza for free and fun entertainment. We especially invite you to visit our Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe located in the Patio Escondido Mall. The Chapel is famous as an Old Town attraction and is very popular for weddings and renewal of marriage vows. From April to October, weekends in Old Town come to life with music, dance, and theatrical performances every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. 

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