The oldest state capital in the United States was born under a much longer name, La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis (The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi.) That according to Wikipedia. Fortunately, somewhere along the line, the name was shortened to simply Santa Fe.
My wife, Lynn, and I traveled to Albuquerque last October to participate in a small family gathering with my sister, a niece and nephews from the midwest. One of our outings was led by my sister’s friend, a man who spent much of his working life in Santa Fe at the state capitol. He offered to be our tour guide to the oldest city in New Mexico. The heart of Santa Fe is easily walkable, so instead of taking two vehicles to get there, we rode the Rail Runner Express. The train makes a 100-mile run several times a day from Santa Fe to Belen with 14 stops along the way. We boarded the train at a nearby stop where there are park-and-ride places.
As might be surmised by the city’s original name, the community was, and is, a community of churches. Probably the most notable, and one of the oldest, built in 1610, rebuilt several times, finally in 1714 the new church was named for the Patron Saint of Santa Fe, St. Francis of Assisi. Part of that old church still exists, surrounded by the cathedral that was built around it in 1869 through 1887. All but a small adobe chapel of the old church was then dismantled and carried out in pieces through the front door.
The church was elevated to the status of Basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. Those interested in the history and other details of the Basilica can find it on their webpage here. The photo above is a view of the main altar.
The altar of the original adobe chapel features the oldest statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the United States. Had I known of the historical significance of La Conquistadora, I would have captured a closer image than the one above. The statue at the top is about 3-feet (1-meter) tall and is carved of wood. Modified over the years and given articulating arms so the statue could be dressed in real vestments, “Our Lady of the Rosary, La Conquistadora” came to the United States, eventually arriving in Santa Fe in 1625. A more complete history of this 400 year-old statue can be found here. The gallery of images included with this post features more interior shots of the Basilica.
Our next stop on our tour of Santa Fe features another church located at the end of the Old Santa Fe Trail. The chapel, built for the school operated by the Sisters of Loretto in 1873 through 1878, is known for its unique staircase. No longer an active church, the Loretto Chapel is now operated as a private museum.
The Miraculous Staircase was built sometime in the late 1870s. Its unique design features two 360 degree turns with no center support. The staircase is over 20-feet (6-meters) tall, rests on the floor and against the choir loft. The staircase is held together with wooden pegs, no glue or nails and consists of 33 identical risers. More about the Sisters of Loretto, the chapel and the amazing staircase can be found here.
Santa Fe is an artists community so no visit to the city, even on this cloudy, somewhat rainy day, would be complete without a tour of several art galleries. Since most galleries don’t take kindly to photography, suffice it to say that our visit to the galleries exposed us to some amazing artwork. The image above is the entrance to one of the galleries we visited.
Next week, our walking tour of Santa Fe continues with a visit to the Governor’s Palace and Museum as well as a stop at the State Capitol building. The gallery of images below features more photos of the churches and downtown area we visited. Click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.