Santa Fe Historic Churches
The creator of this website's family heritage dates back to before Santa Fe was recognized as a State. That combined with her world wide travel experience make this website one of the most informative that you will find. In addition to links to Santa Fe's preferred lodging, dining, theater and more, you will find special notes
on this page about Santa Fe Historic Churches that make it interesting, unique and delightful. Enjoy!
site where St. Frances Cathedral stands today there was
originally a small mission church. That mission was burned
down in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. After the Spanish regained
control in 1692, a more substantial adobe church, La Parroquia,
was built on this site. That church served for almost 200
years. In 1884, La Parroquia was replaced by St. Frances
Cathedral. Jean Baptiste Lamy brought architect Antoine
Mouly and his son, Projectus Mouly from Paris, France to
Santa Fe to be architect and builders. The new Cathedral,
intended for the ages, was constructed of stone from local
quarries and from the La Bajada Mesa, west of town, and
took 10 years to build.
From A BRIEF
HISTORY of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico
"On July 19, 1850, Pope Pius IX created the Vicariate Apostolic
of New Mexico and appointed Father Jean Baptiste Lamy as its first
Bishop. Bishop Lamy arrived in New Mexico in the summer of 1851.
His early efforts were directed to the building of more churches,
the creation of new parishes and the establishment of educational
and medical facilities.
the Vicariate Apostolic had become a See in its own right, the Diocese
of Santa Fe, and on February 12, 1875, the Diocese of Santa Fe was
elevated to an Archdiocese with Bishop Lamy as its first Archbishop.
Bishop Lamy began building a stone cathedral, to replace the old
adobe church, parts of which had served the parishioners of Santa
Fe since 1717 (the Conquistadora Chapel is all that remains). The
new stone Cathedral was built around and over the old church, in
the style of the Romanesque churches of France familiar to Bishop
Lamy. By 1884 the main part of the Cathedral was finished and the
old church was torn down from under it. Archbishop Lamy died on
February 14, 1888 and is buried under the sanctuary floor of his
beloved St. Francis Cathedral. He was succeeded as Archbishop of
Santa Fe by John Baptist Salpointe. Archbishop John Baptist Pitaval,
fifth Archbishop of Santa Fe, dedicated the bronze statue of Archbishop
Lamy which stands in front of the Cathedral on May 23, 1915."
downtown building may rise higher than the bell towers of the St.
church is shown in the 1988 movie "Twins" with Arnold
Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito.
Many of my family members, including myself,
were baptized in the St. Francis Cathedral.
Home of the Miraculous Staircase
the end of the Old Santa Fe Trail stands the Loretto Chapel. The history
of the small Chapel began when Bishop Jean Baptisite Lamy was appointed
by the Church to the New Mexico Territory in1850. Bishop Lamy, seeking
to spread the faith and bring an educational system to this new territory,
began a letter writing plea for priests, brothers and nuns to preach
and teach. In one of his letters he is said to have written, I
have 6000 Catholics and 300 Americans. The first acceptance
of his general plea was from the Sisters of Loretto.
In 1852 the
Sisters of Loretto responded to Lamys pleas by sending seven
sisters who agreed to make this arduous journey to Santa Fe. Their
trek was through St. Louis, then up the river to Independence, Mo.
This small group was beset by a cholera epidemic, the Mother Superior
died, and another nun was too ill to continue the journey and returned
to Kentucky. The remaining nuns traveled by wagon through bad weather,
and Indian country. They arrived in Santa Fe in 1852 and opened
the Academy of Our Lady of Light (Loretto) in1853. The campus covered
a square block with 10 buildings. The school was started and grew
from very small beginnings to a school of around 300 students, despite
the challenges of the territory (smallpox, tuberculosis, leaky mud
roofs and even a brush with the rowdy Confederate Texans during
the Civil War). Through
tuitions for the girls schooling, donations, and from the
sisters own inheritances from their families, they built their school
and chapel. The Loretto Academy was closed in 1968, and the property
was put up for sale. At the time of sale in 1971, Our Lady of Light
Chapel was informally deconsecrated as a Catholic Chapel.
My mother was a boarding student as a young girl
at Loretto Academy (now the
Inn at Loretto).
She was often encouraged by other Loretto Academy
boarding students to sneak out to buy candy at the nearby drug store
on the Plaza.. Being of small physic she could easily get through
spaces in the wall but more often than not she was caught by the
nuns upon her return, arms and pockets loaded with goodies, and
as punishment she had to polish the famous
Loretto Chapel's Miraculous
Spiral Staircase by hand with cotton balls!
During the first
period of construction of the St. Francis Cathedral, and as an apparent
afterthought, Archbishop Lamy advised and encouraged the sisters
to utilize architect Antoine Mouly and his son, Projectus Mouly
(whom he brought from Paris to design the St. Francis Cathedral),
to design and build their dream chapel. The older Mouly had been
involved in the renovation of San Chapel, in Paris, in the early
1800s. Mouly was encouraged to fashion the Loretto Chapel
after the San Chapel. It was the favorite chapel of the archbishop
from his early days in Paris, France. It is reported that the sisters
pooled their own inheritances to raise the $30,000 required to build
this beautiful Gothic chapel. Property was purchased and in 1873
work began on the Loretto Chapel. Undoubtedly influenced by the
French clergy in Santa Fe, the Gothic Revival-style chapel was patterned
after King Louis IX's Sainte-Chapelle in Paris; a striking contrast
to the adobe churches already in the area.
for the Chapel was quarried from locations around Santa Fe including
Cerro Colorado, about 20 miles from Santa Fe near the town of Lamy.
The sandstone for the walls and the porous volcanic stone used for
the ceiling were hauled to town by wagon.
The ornate stained
glass in the Loretto Chapel also made part of its journey to Santa
Fe via wagon. Purchased in 1876 from the DuBois Studio in Paris,
the glass was first sent from Paris to New Orleans by sailing ship
and then by paddle boat to St. Louis, MO. where it was taken by
covered wagon over the Old Santa Fe Trail to the Chapel.
The Chapel was
completed in 1878 and has since seen many additions and renovations
such as the introduction of the Stations of the Cross, the Gothic
altar and the frescos during the 1890s.
is now a private museum operated and maintained, in part, for the
preservation of the Miraculous Staircase and the Chapel itself.
Miraculous Staircase (also called The Spiral Staircase)
the chapel neared completion did the Sisters realized that
the only access to the choir loft, which is 22 feet from the
ground, was by ladder (a staircase would take
up too much space in the small chapel). Climbing a
ladder would be a great difficulty for the Sisters. No architect
or carpenter could figure a solution. According to legend,
the Sisters, seeking an answer to their dilemma, made a novena
to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth
and final day of the novena, a man on a donkey showed up at
the chapel with a toolbox looking for work. More than six
months later the sisters found the magnificent circular staircase
finished and the carpenter had disappeared without asking
for payment. Some believe that he was St. Joseph himself.
The Spiral Staircase was built sometime between 1877 and 1881.
Staircase is an inexplicable and marvelous work of craftsmanship
that confounds architects, engineers and master craftsmen.
It makes over two complete 360-degree turns, stands 20
tall and has no center support. It rests solely on its base
against the choir loft. The types of woods used in it's construction
are still questionable and it is constructed only with square
wooden pegs. No glue or metal nails are used.
staircase has been the subject of many articles, TV specials,
and movies including "Unsolved Mysteries" and the
Kraft movie called "The Staircase".
oldest church still in use in the United States, this simple
adobe structure and altar were built by the Tlaxcalan Indians
of Mexico, under the direction of Franciscan Padres, in
1610. It was partially destroyed during the Pueblo Revolt
of 1680. The thick adobe walls remained unharmed in 1692
De Vargas ordered the church rebuilt. In 1710 the church
was was reconstructed and a sacristy added. In 1955
investigations were made, the altar redone and artwork restored.
Stone buttresses have been added to strengthen the walls
and the tower has been remodeled. An 800 lb. bronze bell
situated in the gift shop once hung in the bell tower. An
inscription on the bell reads "San Jose - ROGAD - por
nosotros 9 De 1356" (St. Joseph, pray for us December
9, 1356). It is believed to have been cast in Spain in 1356.
This church is located next to the Oldest
House in the USA (built in early 1200), and is across the
street from The Pink Adobe Restaurant and Dragon Room Bar
(check out my Best Santa Fe