Penitente Photograph CollectionAdd to your cart.

Collection Overview

Title: Penitente Photograph CollectionAdd to your cart.
ID: 01/ AR0272
Extent: 1.0 Boxes
Arrangement: Items are arranged in their original order, per included inventory lists.
Date Acquired: 00/00/1986
Languages: English


Exhibit photographs of the Pentientes--a religious fraternal order--and their religious buidlings in northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. From the Historical Collection.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

Contains 26 photos and 4 accompanying labels of the Pentientes as they practice their religious ceremonies and of their local religious buildings. These include photos of churches, crosses, and statues of Jesus, Mary, and saints. All photos are black and white, except a photo of a Jesus statue in color, as noted below. Two inventory lists describe the included photos and labels. All items are undated.

Collection Historical Note

The Hermandad de Nuestro Padre Jesus el Nazareno, also known as Los Hermanos Penitentes or just the Penitentes, was an organization of Catholic lay brothers. The Penitentes, with a strong devotion to Christ, practiced acts of piety, including mortification, flagellation and cross bearing. They atoned for their sins and those of mankind. They worshiped in small, unsanctified chapels, called moradas, often located adjacent to cemeteries. A life-sized statue of Christ carrying a cross can be seen outside moradas still active today.

The order, perhaps going back as much as 400 years, flourished in isolated mountain communities in both Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. Some believe that the order began in the 19th century after Mexico‘s 1821 independence from Spain, when many clergy left the New World to return to the old. This may just be the period they gained power and came to prominence during a time when the Catholic Church was not active in the region. In the absence of official clergy, these devoted men provided for the spiritual needs of their somewhat isolated communities.

Things began to change after New Mexico became a United States territory in 1846. In 1850, the Catholic Church established a new diocese in Santa Fe (previously the diocesan seat had been in Durango, Mexico) and the groups’ practices fell into disfavor. Reportedly, Archbishop Lamy, who arrived to head the new Santa Fe Diocese in 1851 did not want to outlaw them, but he required that they practice in secret. His successor, Archbishop Salpointe, had even less tolerance and ordered the dissolution of the New Mexico Penitentes. They flourished underground many years.

They were brought back into the fold in 1947. While somewhat accepted by the Catholic Church today, they continue to practice in secret. Like many sects in contemporary times, membership is decreasing. In an effort to be more transparent, the Penitentes now offer Good Friday service to the general public.

Source: Santa Fe Travelers

Access Information

Access Restrictions:

This collection is not restricted.

Use Restrictions:

Reproduction and publication of materials in this collection are subject to the policies of the UNT Special Collections department. Copyright restrictions may apply.

Physical Access Note:

This collection is stored off-site and requires a minimum of 24 hours notice prior to use.

Reading Room or Duplication Requests

Depending on any access restrictions noted above, you may be able to request items be delivered to our reading room, or that we make reproductions for you. Just click on either the or icons in the listings below to be routed to our request form.

Administrative Information

Repository: Manuscripts
Acquisition Source: Historical Collection
Acquisition Method: Transfer
Preferred Citation: Penitente Photograph Collection, University of North Texas Special Collections


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