We had cousin weekend recently in Santa Fe – my birthday was a great excuse for nine of us to get together, stay in a gorgeous house on Bishop’s Lodge road, eat at Tomasita’s and Del Charro (posts soon), and do what I do every time I’m in Santa Fe – walk through the Cathedral.
The Catholics showed up in Santa Fe in 1598, 12 years before the city was founded. Franciscan Friars accompanied Spanish settlers who had traveled north from Mexico. Then in 1610, the same year the city was founded, a Catholic church was erected on the site where the present-day cathedral stands, just across the street from the La Fonda.
Funny thing is, there was also a La Fonda in existence in the same spot that year. Without over-simplifying, you just have to know that this stuff has been here a looooong time (okay. I over-simplified.). Don’t take your kids to Washington, DC or Georgetown to see history in action. Take them to New Mexico’s capitol – that’s where the real history is.
The Indian revolt of 1680 destroyed the church, which was then rebuilt in 1714. And then Archbishop Lamy showed up in 1850 and expanded the church from an adobe structure to the large stone structure that stands now. Lamy was from France, which explains his choice of architecture. He’s buried in a crypt under the Cathedral, and his statue stands in front of the church. Lamy deserves his own post, as does Death Comes for the Archbishop, one of the greatest books ever written.
The Cathedral is imposing but beautiful, historic but used everyday, and home to the La Conquistadora Chapel, built to honor La Conquistadora, a statue of the Virgin Mary. The statue was brought to Santa Fe in 1626. During the Pueblo Revolt, the statue was carried all the way to El Paso by the fleeing Spaniards, and then carried home in 1693 when they were allowed to peaceably return. She’s very compelling, La Conquistadora. I stand under her and wish she could speak, telling stories about what she’s seen. To the left of her, in the wall, is the coffin of two of the early Franciscan priests.
See why I come here every time I come to town? Besides being breath-takingly gorgeous, and a quiet but awe-inspiring place to visit, the Cathedral has more history in one corner than most places in the rest of the U.S. It’s quite typically New Mexican. Drop in – if there’s not a mass in progress, you can admire La Conquistadora yourself. Give her my best. It won’t be long before I’m back.