Answering the query from Jack Kelly in Disney’s Newsies: yes, Santa Fe is there. And, it is so much more than I ever thought. I spent just a short time there, but know there is so much more that could occupy my time and energy.
After my quick jaunt to Pecos National Historic Park, I found my way back to downtown Santa Fe. I parked by the cathedral, so that was the first stop.
St. Francis Cathedral Basilica
The current building was built in the late 1800s on the site of the original built 100 years earlier. The bishop responsible for it is also responsible for a handful of other fantastic religious sites in Santa Fe. However, one of the transepts is original and houses the oldest statue of Mary in the U.S.
The building is beautiful. There are fantastic stained-glass windows and painted details along architectural features that add some great color. Two more things I’ll share about this house of worship. First, I’m not a fan of the foyer of over-crowded with books for sale. It causes a cramped and chaotic feel right when you walk in. Second, I love that they play music in the sanctuary! I’ve been in many cathedrals around the world, and this is the only one I can remember that has music playing all the time. It helps mask people chatting, blocks out street noise and adds to the atmosphere.
Be sure to visit the basilica when you find yourself in Santa Fe.
Like Taos, Santa Fe was built around a central plaza. So, that was my next stop. Slightly larger than the Taos plaza, Santa Fe’s is also surrounded by art galleries and boutique shops. Just beyond in each direction are many museums. One of them is the old Palace of Governors that is now a history museum. I almost went in, but learned that it is more expensive for out-of-state visitors. Not a fan of that policy. It discourages outsiders from learning about the rich history of the area.
Being around the plaza at lunch time, I asked one of our artists from Santa Fe where I should eat. He recommended The Shed, a Santa Fe restaurant specializing in New Mexican cuisine for more than 50 years. It was delicious! I wasn’t the only one who thought that either; the place was packed.
Since Santa Fe was established as a Spanish city, you can only guess that there was a very strong Catholic influence meaning many churches. Just up the road from the cathedral is the “oldest church in the United States” or the San Miguel Mission. It was originally built in the 1600s, was damaged during the pueblo revolt, and was repaired in the 1700s.
I didn’t get to go inside because it closes earlier than you would think, but I did get a good look around the outside. Right across the alley is a home that was once considered the oldest home in America, but it really isn’t.
Nearly all of the historic churches, missions and homes in New Mexico are adobe. One in Santa Fe sticks out though since it was built after a Gothic church in France – the Loretto Chapel. Built under the direction of the same bishop who had the basilica built, he had this church built for the Sisters of Loretto. It is now privately owned, so there is a fee to go in. But, that shouldn’t discourage you.
The small sanctuary is beautiful and there’s a “miraculous” staircase that’s been featured on Unsolved Mysteries. Most churches of that era didn’t have a way to get in the choir loft. They just put up a ladder. However, this church was built for a convent of sisters who weren’t about to climb a ladder, so they needed a staircase. The spiral stairs that were built supposedly defy principles of engineering. The sisters attribute the miracle to St. Joseph.
There are more holy edifices in Santa Fe that I didn’t make it to on this trip. That just leaves more to see when I go back.
Mormon Battalion Monument
Along the interstate between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, in the middle of nowhere, is a monument to the Mormon Battalion. I saw a sign for it on my way to Santa Fe and decided I should make a pit stop there on the way back south. The Mormon Battalion was a military unit comprised of 500 Mormon volunteers to assist in the War with Mexico in 1846. They left Nebraska and followed the path that led by Santa Fe, down to the Gadsden Purchase and then west to San Diego, California. It is considered the longest military march in U.S. history and had only one battle against a herd of charging bulls. Almost 100 years later the Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association erected a monument on their path in New Mexico.
If you want to see this monument, take the exit where the sign tells you, go to the west side of the interstate and take that frontage road until you find it. Don’t get discouraged passing the large abandoned outlet mall or the dead end sign. The monument really is there.