The Saint Francis Cathedral was built between 1869 and 1886 and designed in the French Romanesque Revival style. Although its design contrasts the surrounding adobe buildings, the cathedral remains one of Santa Fe’s most celebrated landmarks. Built on the site of a church that was destroyed during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and replacing a later adobe church called La Parroquia, the Saint Francis Cathedral was created with stone from local quarries.
- Visit La Conquistadora Chapel. In 1626, Fray Alonso Benavides brought Our Lady of the Rosary to Santa Fe. The chapel was built at that time for the statue. During the Pueblo Revolt, the statue was removed, but returned in 1693 during the peaceful return of the Spanish settlers. She was renamed La Conquistadora in honor of what was believed to be her peaceful acceptance by the natives.
- Behind the statue is a Reredos, a mural style from Spain, which depicts various saints. During a recent (2000–2009) restoration, an older painting was found.
- On the left are the coffins of two early Franciscan priests. The chapel is listed as a “contributing property” of the Santa Fe Historic District.
Portions of La Parroquia remain in the form of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, which houses a wooden statue of the Virgin known as Our Lady of Peace. The statue was first brought to Santa Fe in 1625 and was returned to the city by the armies of Don Diego de Vargas during the re-conquest of 1692. In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI officially elevated the church to the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Saint Francis Cathedral was designed in the Romanesque Revival style. The cathedral features round arches separated by Corinthian columns. The large rose window in front and those of the Twelve Apostles in the lateral nave windows were imported from Clermont-Ferrand in France.
A 2005 addition to the upper facade of the cathedral is a small, round window featuring a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit. It is a stained glass replica of the translucent alabaster window designed in the 17th century by the Italian artist Bernini for St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
- St. Francis of Assisi’s interior has beautiful Stations of the Cross done in New Mexico Mission Style. The Stations are created in Santero style by Marie Romero Cash. Roberto Montoya, a Penitent, carved the Spanish-style frames.
The altar screen is a Reredos that was created for the 100th anniversary of the Cathedral in 1986. The Reredos has a statue of St. Francis surrounded by painted images of saints of the New World.
Directly behind the sanctuary is the entrance to the crypt. The sanctuary was redesigned in 1986 in accordance with changes in the liturgical worship. The Archbishop’s chair is located to the north, next to a pillar.
Located in the east end of the nave is the sanctuary. Above the altar is the San Damiano Crucifix, a replica of the crucifix in Assisi, Italy. Tradition says that the Lord leaned down from the crucifix and said; “Francis, go and repair my house.”
This statue of St. Francis, the patron saint of the diocese, was installed in front of the Cathedral during the 1967 renovations.
In front of the cathedral is a statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (1656–1680). She was the first Native American Indian to be beatified, and was canonized in October 2012. She was an Algonquian-Mohawk woman of New York State. At an early age, she converted to Christianity. The statue was created by Estella Loretto, a sculptor from the nearby Jemez Pueblo, and installed in August 2003.
A plaque noting Kateri’s canonization was added in October 2012.
The daughter of a Mohawk chief and a Catholic Algonquin woman, Kateri was born in 1656 about 40 miles northwest of Albany and in the heart of the Iroquois Confederacy to which the Mohawks belong. She was orphaned at age 4 when smallpox wiped out her family and much of her village and left her blinded and disfigured.
A Catholic convert at 20, she settled in Kahnawake, a Mohawk settlement south of Montreal where Jesuits had a mission and where she and other women performed mortification rituals such as self-flogging as part of their faith. At her death at the age of 24, Kateri’s smallpox scars reportedly vanished and later she was reported to appear before several people. She is buried at a shrine on Kahnawake.
Walk behind the church to visit the Stations of the Cross Prayer Garden.
Fourteen life-size sculptures by Gib Singleton represent stages during the events in the hours leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion as developed by St. Francis of Assisi. The Prayer Garden is sited in the remnant of Bishop Lamy’s once-extensive gardens on the cathedral grounds.
- A statue of Jean-Baptiste Lamy adorns the front of the Cathedral.
This statue by Jeno Juszko honors Father Lamy (1814–1888), who was installed as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Santa Fe in 1850. Under his direction, the cornerstone of the current cathedral was laid in 1869. He became Archbishop in 1875, when the Diocese was raised to an Archdiocese. He retired in July 1885 to his residence north of town, known as Bishop’s Lodge. He is buried in the crypt beneath the Cathedral floor.
Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Travel Guides at www.vino-con-vista.com