El Santuario de los Poblares was commissioned by the oldest church in Colorado, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, to preserve, enlighten and nuture awareness of the congregation’s Catholic and Spanish culture and traditions. The project is also intended to increase tourism by creating an iconic spiritual landscape. The design is an outdoor chapel and prayer labyrinth that represents the Mysteries of the Rosary. Just as the Rosary is made up of twenty “mysteries” (significant events or moments in the life of Jesus and Mary), the prayer labyrinth is also divided into four sections—each containing five small meditation chapels designed to help focus prayers on the life, ministry and Passion of Jesus in the Catholic faith.
The labyrinth will ultimately be constructed out of mud brick, a local material used for hundreds of years, but for the 150th anniversary celebration, a full scale mock-up of the labyrinth was created using approximately 1000 straw bales. The straw bales, also harvested locally, will be used as ingredients in making the 32,000 mud bricks needed for the labyrinth’s 6 foot tall walls.
To construct the straw bale labyrinth, instructions were given to each participant that showed the location of each individual bale. Participants could then follow a drawing enscribed in the gravel to locate the position of each bale. Using this method, the entire labyrinth was constructed in 1/2 day with nine people and two trucks.