Steven Dutch, Professor Emeritus, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
|In 1972, Old Town Santa Fe looked like the Spanish had just left. Now it's been, frankly, a bit over-preserved.
Below, one thing that hasn't changed a bit - the wooden sign on the Palacio Real. At left, the sign in 1972; at right, in 2002.
|Above: views in 1972
Below: views in 2002 and 2008.
The cathedral was built 1869-1887 by the first bishop of Santa Fe, Jean Baptiste Lamy.
|Statue of Bishop Lamy.
During the Manhattan Project, workers at Los Alamos were strictly forbidden to use professional titles in public. On a visit to Santa Fe, two scientists visited the cathedral and saw the statue. One remarked to the other "If you know what's good for you, you'd better call him mister Lamy!"
Churches have stood on the site of the cathedral since 1610. In 1680 the Pueblo Indians mounted the most successful Indian revolt in the Americas and drove the Spanish out of New Mexico for twelve years. They were not able to rebuild the church until 1714. That church was replaced by the cathedral, and a side chapel of Adobe is the only surviving remnant. The Madonna is the oldest one in the U.S. It was made in Spain in the early 1600's and arrived in Santa Fe in 1625.
The Spanish reoccupation of Santa Fe was actually pretty bloodless. The Madonna was credited with warning the Spanish of the revolt in time to flee, and with bringing a peaceful re-settlement. Hence the name.
|As noted, this is the oldest church in the U.S., predating the Pilgrims by a decade.|
|Archeological studies are carried on under the church. A display of artifacts at left.|
|At the foot of the altar are remains of the original steps.|
|Original adobe walls.|
|This bell, from around 1600, is the oldest bell in the U.S. The silver objects in the frame are devotional tokens.|
|Ring my chimes. Just try this at the Liberty Bell!|
|Left and below: views of the rear of the church.|
|Left and below: the altar of the church.|
|Left: The altar in 1972.
Below: religious paintings on leather.
|Colorful street scene near the church.|
When French nuns were brought to Santa Fe as teachers in the late 19th century, the bishop built them a very nice French-style church. When it was all finished, the nuns realized to their horror that there was no room for a staircase to the choir loft. Then, goes the story, an itinerant carpenter offered to build a staircase. He built a spiral staircase with two complete turns, no center column, and no nails used in the construction. Also, so I've heard, originally no railing. That must have been fun. When the work was done, the carpenter disappeared without collecting his pay. The story was dramatized in the 1998 TV movie The Staircase, starring William Petersen of CSI.
Jesus? St. Joseph? Or more prosaically, a local carpenter whose obituary in 1896 specifically credited him with the staircase? Any way you look at it, it's an amazing construction. The chapel is no longer used by the order. It charges admission and is used for weddings.
|Left: Loretto Chapel in 1972.
Below: the staircase and choir loft in 1972.
|All photos below were taken in 2002.|
|This monument commemorates native peoples.|
This adobe building next to San Miguel Church predates Spanish occupation and is claimed to be the oldest house in the U.S.
Created 28 February 2009, Last Update 04 June 2020