The Capilla de San Isidro, or Chapel of Saint Isidore, is a Catholic Church in Los Fuertes, in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. It was built in about 1894. Saint Isidore is the patron saint of farming, and the church continues to play an important role in this largely agricultural community. Mass is celebrated in Spanish during the summer.
Hispano settlers moving north from New Mexico established Los Fuertes in the 1850s. They founded the village along Vallejos Creek, between San Pablo and San Francisco. As was customary in the area, the settlers placed their new town under the spiritual protection of a saint. In Los Fuertes, that saint-protector was San Isidro Labrador (Saint Isidore the Farmer). Many villages in this region celebrated his feast day on May 15 during spring planting.
The settlers in Los Fuertes and other Hispano villages typically built private oratorios, or chapels, soon after the towns were settled. A more substantial chapel was likely built in the 1870s. By this time, the Catholic church in the larger town of San Luis had an independent parish ministering to local mission churches in the area.
In about 1894, the original oratorio was replaced by the Capilla de San Isidro. The church was one story and may have had a flat roof in the Hispanic Adobe style. Father Samuel García was the pastor of Sangre de Cristo Parish from 1894 to 1921. He modernized San Isidro with a gabled roof and cupola. These Anglo design elements made the building a good example of the Territorial Adobe style. Inside, the church had a wooden floor, brown plaster walls, a flat ceiling, and wooden benches.
During the tenure of Father Onofre Martorell, the pastor of Sangre de Cristo Parish from 1933 to 1962, the building received minor updates. Father Martorell stabilized or rebuilt most of the churches in the parish. He likely added a cement stucco coating to the adobe walls that sealed out moisture. The foundation was reinforced with a concrete apron. In addition, a small vestibule was built on the southern entry to both add space and prevent drafts. Since those slight alterations in the 1930s, the building has remained basically unchanged.
Capilla de San Isidro still plays a central role in the local community. During the summer, a priest from Sangre de Cristo Parish conducts Mass in Spanish at each local mission church in the area, including San Isidro. In addition, the community gathers at the church during Holy Week. They then carry a model of the church to San Luis for religious observances. The community also comes together at the church in May for the Feast of San Isidro and throughout the year for a variety of community events and religious celebrations.
In 2013 the church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.