A few years ago, we watched a documentary on television about some little chapel in the middle of a historic city in the Southwest that has a neat staircase. Of course, back then, who would have known we’d set out on our American safari looking for landmarks and other cool places that would lead us to writing this blog entry?
The City of Santa Fe was founded in 1610. That same year the first church was built on this site. The original adobe church was replaced in 1630 by a larger one, which was destroyed by the Pueblo Indian Revolt of 1680.
The expelled Spaniards returned in 1693, but were not able to rebuild the church until 1714. This new church was named in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Santa Fe.
The only part of this church still existing is the small adobe chapel dedicated to Our Lady La Conquistadora. Brought from Spain in 1625, the statue is the oldest representation of the Virgin Mary in the United States.
In 1850, Santa Fe received its first Bishop, Father John Baptiste Lamy of France. Judging the 1714 old adobe church as inadequate for the seat of the Archdiocese, Bishop Lamy ordered a new Romanesque church built, and brought French architects and Italian stonemasons to build his Cathedral.
Construction of the Cathedral began in 1869 and continued until 1887. The new Cathedral was built around the former adobe church and, when the new walls were complete, the old church was torn down and removed through the front door.
The stained glass windows in the lower bay are from France and depict the twelve apostles. Seven archbishops, including Lamy, are buried in the sanctuary.
Dedicated in 1887, the Cathedral’s spires were never completed due to lack of funds. During the most recent structural renewal in 1967, the Cathedral was strengthened, new sacristies were added, and a Blessed Sacrament Chapel was built. In 1987, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the stone church, a monumental altar screen depicting famous saints of North and South America was installed.
The Cathedral was elevated to a Basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. Basilica means a church of particular importance in Rome and abroad. Churches are honored by the Holy Father because of their importance in the history of spreading Catholicism.
Before we left, I made a promise to myself earlier in the day to light a candle and say a prayer for my dear friend, Poppa Jack. Here’s to you, Jack (who now is in heaven with our dear Lord)!
When the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878, the builders seemingly forgot to construct access to the choir loft. Because the chapel was so small, they had to figure out some ladder system that wouldn’t take up much space nor detract from the chapel itself. The Sisters of the Chapel made a novena to the patron saint of carpenters, St. Joseph. Only night days of novena, a lone carpenter with his donkey carrying his tools passed by looking for work; he was hired by the Sisters with promise of payment when he was through with his work.
A few months later, after completion, the carpenter with his donkey and tools disappeared without chance to be given his payment or appreciation. The Sisters were adament on searching for this man but were unsuccessful in their search. The Sisters were perplexed asking ‘who was this man’. It was then believed he was St. Joseph himself. What’s astounding about what he built though is the staircase showed no means of support of its two 360 spiral turns. Further, no evidence of usage of nails; only wooden pegs and the wood and other materials were not known to that geographic location.