A few years ago, we watched a documentary on television about a little chapel in the middle of a historic city in the desert southwest that has quite a bit of cool notoriety. So, who would have known years later that we’d find this beautiful historic treasure. We’ll call this one Our Walk of Faith in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Once we said goodbyes to our family and friends in Colorado, we embarked on our winter journey to the southwest. Our first stop, we stayed three nights at Santa Fe Skies RV Park, just outside of Santa Fe.
Arriving in Santa Fe…
Since we arrived late afternoon, we relaxed for the evening but agreed to rise with the sun and head to the city to play tourist that following morning.
Now, we’ve been in many churches; moreso for myself being raised Catholic but we enjoy visiting them because of their architectural and artistic beauty. This Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is no exception.
Borrowed from the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi website (I know I know, I’m cheating! LOL), their history goes like this:
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.
To say it best, this Cathedral is HUGE…and absolutely GORGEOUS! As we walked into the double doors, we were awestruck; so majestic and regal.
Dan just stood there gazing at all the details as I walked each of the Stations of the Cross,taking in every detail and reminding myself of my faith. We stayed at the Cathedral and the grounds (it had several small monuments and memory gardens) for almost two hours. There was so much to see; scrolls in the Corinthian columns, gold-leafing, hand-painted arches, mahogany, and detailed carved woodwork. It was incredible.
Before we left, I lit a candle and said a prayer for my dear friend, Poppa Jack, who passed away only weeks prior.
Time for lunch and shopping…
Taking a break from our cultural lesson, we walked a short jaunt to the park to enjoy lunch-in-foil (southwestern taco fajita) at the Santa Fe Plaza (listed as a National Historic Landmark). We also did some window shopping. It was quite pricy in that area. I was enamored with a pair of badass cowgirl boots until I saw the price tag (over $1000) and a blouse ($500).
We went to church again…
After coming down from the sticker shock, we walked over to the Loretto Chapel. The Loretto Chapel, located not to far from the Palace of the Governors and Santa Fe Plaza at the end of the Santa Fe Trail. The Loretto Chapel is a former Roman Catholic Church that is now used as a museum and a wedding chapel. However, there’s a little something inside that made it quiet famous; the Miraculous Staircase.
In the early 1850’s, there was instruction to build the Loretto Academy to teach and preach. Property was purchased in 1873 and the building of the Loretto Chapel had begun. Influenced by the French clergy in Santa Fe, the Gothic Revival-style chapel was patterned after King Louis IX’s Saint-Chapelle in Paris; a striking contrast to the adobe churches in the region.
The building was completed in 1878 with additions made later as the Stations of the Cross, the Gothic Altar and the Frescos during the 1890’s. There is a legend though that says the staircase was constructed (or inspired) by St. Joseph, the carpenter, sometime between 1877 and 1881. Its said that it took six months to construct the staircase.
It has no visible means of support and shows two perfectly built 360 degree spiral turns. In 1968, the Loretto Academy was closed and the property put up for sale. Our Lady of Light Chapel was deconsecrated as a Catholic Chapel in 1971. But its not the history of the chapel that made it famous. The story behind a staircase construction created a stir.
There are two mysteries that lie with the Miraculous Staircase inside the Loretto Chapel; its perplexing and magnificent construction and who the carpenter who built it.
When the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878, the builders oddly forgot to construct access to the choir loft. Because the chapel was so small, they had to figure out a way to get up to the loft 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. One of the night of novena, a lone carpenter with his donkey carrying his tools passed by looking for work. He was instantly hired by the Sisters with their promise of payment when he finished.
However, after completion months later, the carpenter with his donkey and tools mysteriously disappeared without payment. The Sisters were adament to search for carpenter but were unsuccessful in their plight. The Sisters were perplexed asking ‘who was this man’. Then, they conjured up their belief that he was St. Joseph, himself.
What’s astounding about the staircase is it shows no means of support of its two 360 spiral turns. Furthermore, there is no evidence of usage of nails. Back then, only wooden pegs and the wood and other materials were used.
We’ve been to many churches; whether for worship, ceremony or visit, the Loretto Chapel and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi ‘moved’ us. Its hard to explain but we truly felt a blessing being bestowed upon us to be able to physically see it for ourselves. If you ever have the chance to go to Santa Fe, put this on the top of your list of places to visit. You won’t be disappointed.
Today, great numbers of those of Faith have made pilgrimage to see such miracle as well as other travelers. There have been articles related to its building legend, been highlighted on ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ (where we learned of it) and even a television movie ‘The Staircase’.