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Visiting the Cristo Rey Church, Loretto Chapel and St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Updated on September 4, 2017
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

Cristo Rey Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Cristo Rey Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico | Source

Santa Fe, New Mexico

What do you think of when you think of vacationing to Santa Fe, New Mexico?

  • Is it the adobe construction on many of the homes and businesses?
  • Is it the Indian and Spanish influences that have left their marks over time?
  • Is it the terrific art galleries that seem to flourish and thrive in this high altitude sunny spot?
  • Is it the abundance of fine dining spots?
  • Is it the historic places to visit?
  • Is it the beauty of the churches both large and small such as the St. Francis Cathedral, the Loretto Chapel or the Cristo Rey Church?
  • Or is it all of the above and more?

This article will take you for a journey into the three churches just mentioned.

Whether you are a tourist interested in merely the history and architecture of such buildings or a visitor looking to attend a church service, you should find something of interest here.

All three of these churches certainly add to the color and ambiance of what is found in Santa Fe.

Inside of Cristo Rey Church
Inside of Cristo Rey Church | Source

Cristo Rey Church

What makes this fairly new church (by Santa Fe standards) stand out and make it unique among any other church is that it is the largest adobe structure in all of the United States!

It is situated at the eastern end of Canyon Road, a street which is known for its numerous art galleries, restaurants and shops.

While on a tour taking us to places like Cristo Rey Church we passed large homes that were located off of Canyon Road in the surrounding hillsides. The minimum square footage requirement was 5,000 square feet when having these residences designed and constructed. Many were much larger and obviously wealthy people live in areas like this.

Keeping with Santa Fe's architectural standards and commitment to keeping with the cultural flavor of the place, when Cristo Rey Church was designed in 1939 by architect John Gaw Meem, he did it in classic New Mexico Mission style.

Altar inside Cristo Rey Church
Altar inside Cristo Rey Church | Source

The interior of this massive adobe church is very plain. The wooden beams on the ceiling counter-balance the wooden pews on the ground and plain windows cut through the thick adobe walls shed light into the interior.

The altar piece shown above is believed to be very old and is made out of stone.

Tinwork inside Cristo Rey Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Tinwork inside Cristo Rey Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico | Source

Along the walls are the typical Stations of the Cross found in most Catholic Churches, but these are special. They are framed with hand worked tin work which is just about a lost art.

Undoubtedly inspired by people who migrated up to these parts from Mexico, the most active period of creating pieces like these frames around the Stations of the Cross as well as other pieces like candle holders and sconces, was from 1860 to about 1890.

Rarely were the tinsmiths who created these pieces viewed as artists. It is nice to see such handcrafted pieces recognized for what they are, true pieces of art. They represent an era long past when tin was used as a decoration for people's homes and other places such as these now hanging in the Cristo Rey Church.

Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico | Source

Loretto Chapel Santa Fe, New Mexico

Unlike the very simple and more plain adobe construction of the Cristo Rey Church in Santa Fe, the Loretto Chapel was built in the Gothic Revival style. It has pointed arches and the use of flying buttresses which are needed supports to keep tall buildings like this intact.

It was constructed in the years 1873 to 1878 and was entrusted to the Sisters of Loretto on the Old Santa Fe Trail to manage.

Antoine Mouly, a French architect, designed this building.

Stations of the Cross inside the Loretto Chapel
Stations of the Cross inside the Loretto Chapel | Source

Stations of the Cross

Most Catholic Churches and many if not most Lutheran Churches have physical representations of the Stations of the Cross inside of their churches.

This is meant for people to meditate upon the sacrifices that Jesus made when he was convicted to a death on the cross giving up His life on earth as a "sacrificial lamb" so that the rest of us could attain heaven after our deaths.

Each Station of the Cross was beautifully created and displayed inside of the Loretto Chapel.
Each Station of the Cross was beautifully created and displayed inside of the Loretto Chapel. | Source

It follows His journey of carrying the cross up to his tortured death and removal from the cross. The number of Stations of the Cross vary with some going beyond His death to His rising from the dead and ascension into heaven.

Loretto Chapel Station of the Cross
Loretto Chapel Station of the Cross | Source

In Europe there are some large outside Stations of the Cross built, one of which I got to see in Germany when visiting a friend of mine years ago. People follow along as a pilgrimage stopping to pray at each of these stations.

The Stations of the Cross inside of the Loretto Chapel are beautifully made.

Loretto Chapel Altar
Loretto Chapel Altar | Source

If you look closely at the picture above, at the base of the altar is a Bas-Relief of Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper.

The stained glass windows inside of the Loretto Chapel were made in France in 1874 from what we learned.

Statues were made by the Daprato Statuary Company about 1915.

This Loretto Chapel no longer functions as a church but weddings can be arranged to be conducted in this beautiful space.

Loretto Chapel
Loretto Chapel | Source

Loretto Chapel Staircase

There are several stories about this famous staircase inside of the Loretto Chapel. Probably the most popular rendition goes something like this:

Construction of this chapel for the Sisters of Loretto was almost completed when it was discovered that the original plans for a staircase up to the choir loft would not fit. The nuns prayed for a solution to their problem. A carpenter appeared out of nowhere and built this fabulous staircase using wood that was not local and no nails.

The curved staircase making two complete 360 degree turns also had no visible means of support. After completion the carpenter disappeared receiving no pay from the nuns.

They would like to think that it was St. Joseph himself who arrived and did this miraculous building of this staircase in answer to their prayers. St. Joseph is the patron saint of carpenters

No matter who created it, it is a masterful piece of construction and draws many tourists who like to gaze upon it in wonderment.

St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico
St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico | Source

St. Francis Cathedral

Named after St. Francis of Assisi, this majestic cathedral dominates the downtown horizon of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

It is an active church and the tolling church bells still call the faithful to services.

St. Francis is a highly venerated saint to people from all around the world. He gave up a life of privilege and wealth and took on vows of poverty while teaching and preaching what Jesus Christ had taught while on earth.

He started the Franciscan Order which also accepts the tenets of not amassing wealth of material things on earth.

St. Francis had a special rapport with animals and could communicate with them. A blessing of the animals takes place in many places around the world on his Feast Day of October 4th.

Prayer of St. Francis beautifully sung in 2 languages

Prayer of St. Francis

"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life."

Closeup photo of portion of the St. Francis Cathedral
Closeup photo of portion of the St. Francis Cathedral | Source

St. Francis Basilica

In 2005 on the Feast Day of St. Francis (October 4th), Pope Benedict XVI changed the status of St. Francis cathedral to basilica.

In Catholic churches a cathedral is the home church for bishops and archbishops.

What makes a basilica special? It is deemed such due to special spiritual, historical or architectural significance. Certainly this St. Francis basilica has historical significance.

It sits atop a location of two former churches the earliest one dating back to 1626.

Architecturally it was built in a Romanesque Revival style starting in 1869. Local yellow limestone was utilized. While the towers were never completed as planned on top of the squared off buttresses, it is certainly a thing of beauty.

St. Francis Cathedral stained glass window
St. Francis Cathedral stained glass window | Source

Stained Glass Windows

Inside of the St. Francis Basilica is a beautifully crafted round rose window that was installed in 1884.

It along with twelve large other stained glass windows depicting the 12 apostles of Christ were produced by the firm of Felix Gaudin in Clermont-Ferrand in France. The workmanship is exquisite.

These windows are luminescent particularly when the sunlight is bright outside sending shafts of prismatic colors into the interior of the church.

Interior of St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Interior of St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico | Source

Our Lady of the Rosary

This is a smaller chapel inside the much larger cathedral as is common with large churches and cathedrals.

The altar is made out of carved and painted wood and is reminiscent of the more simple types of altars found in many smaller places around the State of New Mexico and elsewhere.

A large crucifix of Christ on the cross adorns one of the adjacent walls inside of this chapel.

Smaller and older chapel inside of St. Francis Cathedral.
Smaller and older chapel inside of St. Francis Cathedral. | Source

The statue that highlights this altar is called La Conquistadora. She represents Mary, the mother of Jesus and was built out of willow wood in Spain.

She is the oldest Madonna that is present in the New World.

At one point taken from Santa Fe down to Juarez, Mexico due to fighting and hostilities with native Indians, she was returned back to Santa Fe by Fray Alonzo Benavidez representing the Spanish government in 1629.

Location of St. Francis Cathedral Basilica, Loretto Chapel and Cristo Rey Churches in Santa Fe, NM

show route and directions
A marker -
St Francis of Assisi Cathedral, 131 Cathedral Pl, Santa Fe, NM 87501-2026, USA
get directions

B marker -
The Loretto Chapel, 207 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
get directions

C marker -
Cristo Rey Catholic Church, 1120 Canyon Rd, Santa Fe, NM 87501-6188, USA
get directions

Shows more interior pictures of 2 of the 3 churches shown in this hub, plus the "oldest church" featured in another hub + street scenery in Santa Fe.

Do you like visiting churches and cathedrals when vacationing?

See results

Travel to Santa Fe

Spanish influences and Catholicism customs meshed together with the Native Indians and have had strong influences in the culture found in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

If your travel plans have you headed to Santa Fe, be sure and include visiting some of these sites like the Cristo Rey Church, St. Francis Cathedral and the Loretto Chapel to get a sense of the overall picture making up what Santa Fe has become today.

If you enjoyed this look at this aspect of the Santa Fe culture, please leave a comment below. Thanks!

Which of these special places have you seen?

See results

© 2011 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcome. Thanks!

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    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi VJGSA,

      Did you notice that the highlighted Loretto Chapel Staircase leads to your wonderful hub? Nice that you have gotten to enjoy this city over and over again particularly during an art festival. No, I have not been to Chimayo. Is it something that could write about in a hub?

    • VJGSA profile image

      VJG 2 years ago from Texas

      How could I have missed this Hub on my last visit. I guess I didn't scroll down far enough. My wife, son and I started visiting Santa Fe for a week in a July (in conjunction with the International Art Festival) about 9 years ago. And on each visit we stop by the Cathedral and the Loretto - we never get tired of basking in its history. Great Hub! Have you been to Chimayo?

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Au fait,

      I agree! If at all possible and if time allows, these churches are well worth visiting. That staircase in the Loretto Chapel is amazing! Thanks for the votes and shares.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 3 years ago from North Texas

      I have been to this chapel and the staircase is nothing short of amazing! A really beautiful chapel that anyone going near Santa Fe should be sure to visit. Excellent article packed with great information as always, and also as usual, superb photos.

      Voted up, BAUI, pinned to my 'Travel' board, and sharing.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello rajan jolly,

      I also like that prayer of St. Francis. I am happy to hear that you enjoyed seeing these historic churches in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Thanks for your comment, votes and the share.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very interesting history of these churches especially the way the staircase of Loretto Chapel was constructed. Amazing pictures. I have always admired the calm and serene atmosphere inside these churches.

      Loved the prayer of Saint Francis.

      Voted up, interesting and awesome. Shared.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello shea duane,

      I just read your poem and left a comment. Nicely done! That staircase in the Chapel of Loretto is really something!

    • shea duane profile image

      shea duane 6 years ago from new jersey

      I hope you can take a moment to read my poem.

      shea duane

    • shea duane profile image

      shea duane 6 years ago from new jersey

      Hi Peggy,

      I'm a hubber who has written a poem about the Chapel of Loretto in Santa Fe (I grew up in SF). I found your hub looking for pictures to post with the poem.

      Great hub!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi kittythedreamer,

      I had not heard about ghosts at the Christo Rey Church but it is certainly old enough to possibly have some. Do you know the story? Those old adobe buildings and churches in NM certainly have a distinctive beauty. Thanks for your comment and votes.

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 6 years ago from the Ether

      Voted up, awesome and beautiful! The first church, the Santo Rey Church, I believe there are some ghosts there...an old priest and a woman. Very beautiful buildings indeed! I didn't realize how gorgeous NM churches could be!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello Phyllis Doyle,

      Glad that I could share the Loretto Chapel, Cristo Rey Church and St. Francis Cathedral with you since you like visiting old chapels and churches. Thanks for your comment and votes.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 6 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Hi Peggy. I love old chapels and churches. Your photos are wonderful and make me feel like I just went on a trip to Santa Fe. Voted 'UP' and 'Beautiful'.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Billy,

      Yes...we have some very interesting Mission Churches in Texas also. Thanks for taking a peek at these churches in Santa Fe, New Mexico and leaving a comment.

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 6 years ago

      Nicely done - reminds me a lot of the Mission Trail in Texas.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello John Sarkis,

      Glad you liked these pictures of some of the historic places in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Appreciate the comment.

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Nice hub and pictures

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi mdlawyer,

      So happy to hear that you enjoyed this about 3 of the churches in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Thanks for your comment and votes.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Denise,

      Glad you liked these photos of the Loretto Chapel, Cristo Rey Church and St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe. Santa Fe, New Mexico is such a unique place with much history. Thanks for your comment and rating.

    • mdlawyer profile image

      mdlawyer 6 years ago

      Beautiful presentation of the chapel. VOTED UP, RATED BEAUTIFUL!!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Peggy-Congratulations on your '100' score. What an awesome hub. I loved the photos and information-rated up.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Hello, hello,

      Glad that you liked reading about and seeing these churches in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Just the tip of the iceburg as far as great things to see while there! Thanks for your comment.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you, Peggy, for showing us all these beautiful churches. Splendid hub.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello Eiddwen,

      Glad to take you along on a journey to some of these churches in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Appreciate the comment as always.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      Hi Peggy,

      Once more you have delivered and created this brilliant hub.

      I don't think I need to point out anymore that I bookmarking this one also.

      Take care

      Eiddwen.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi AliciaC,

      Agreed! One does not have to subscribe to different beliefs to admire the architecture and history of a place. Santa Fe is filled with history and certainly has unique architecture. Thanks for the visit and comment.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the “virtual tour”. I love visiting chapels, churches and cathedrals. I enjoy looking at the architecture and learning about the history of the buildings, and even if I don’t share the same beliefs as the congregations I always find the visits spiritually uplifting.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Me too, Simone! Glad that you liked this. Thanks for the comment.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Another fascinating place, Peggy W. Great photos! I'm a real sucker for church architecture.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Gene,

      I guess the light is one reason attracting so many artists (along with the scenery, of course) to Santa Fe. I've not been to those places you mentioned and will remember that if we go back that direction someday. Thanks!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi dahoglund,

      Like you, I like these old churches. Some modern ones look just like office buildings! Oh well...to each their own! Thanks for your comment.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Mary,

      Thanks for your comment. These old churches in Santa Fe are beautiful...Cristo Rey being the newest one of these three featured here in this hub. Have you been to Santa Fe?

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Cheryl,

      Glad that I could show you these churches in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Each is special in its own way. Thanks for the visit and comment.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Charlu,

      That story about the Loretto Chapel staircase is amazing no matter who built it. Glad that you enjoyed this. As to the frequency of my hubs, I had joined the April hubchallenge...writing one a day. However, I don't think I will make it. Also painted 4 rooms in our home during April. Crazy! Getting tired! Will only miss it by 2 or 3...depending upon if I want to get any sleep. Ha!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi susannah42,

      I would have to agree with you about loving Santa Fe. It is a gorgeous place in so many ways! Thanks for your comment.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Darlene,

      Hope you get to go back and see more of Santa Fe someday. It is certainly a great spot in New Mexico! Thanks for your comment.

    • profile image

      Gene Jasper 6 years ago

      Santa Fe is our favorite place and we've been to all those places. For me the best thing about the place is the light. A photographer's dream! Next time you go be sure to see Bandillero National Monument and go to Chama and take the steam train through the mountains.

      Gene

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I often like old churches and get a bit depressed by the need in recent years to "modernize" churches. I am fine with modern churches but I dislike take a nice old church design and spoiling it by trying to make it more up to date. It loses all integrity.

      rated this up and beautiful.

    • profile image

      mary chastain 6 years ago

      The pictures of the old churches are so beautiful. Thanks, mary

    • Cheryl J. profile image

      Cheryl J. 6 years ago from Houston, TX

      Hi Peggy,

      You have shared beautiful photos and videos of The Loretto Chapel, St. Francis Cathedral and the Cristo Rey Church. I am in awe of the beautiful work of art that each church has. Beautiful and great hub. You are awesome, Peggy.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Micky,

      That was the only way I could get all of the altar to show up...by taking two pictures and just piecing them together. Not so pretty, but I thought getting to see the entire altar with all the detail was worth it. The Loretto Chapel is such a beauty. Of course so is St. Francis cathedral and the Cristo Rey church...each in their own way. Thanks for your comment.

    • Charlu profile image

      Charlu 6 years ago from Florida

      They are absolutely stunning. I love the story of the staircase and the carpenter, and no nails WOW. I agree with Charles in that you do such incredible work in so little time Fabulous hub. All up.

    • susannah42 profile image

      susannah42 6 years ago from Florida

      I love Santa Fe, it's such a beautiful place.

    • profile image

      Darlene 6 years ago

      Have only visited Santa Fe New Mexico once and would love to visit again after seeing your beautiful photography.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 6 years ago

      Buttons up as always Peggy! You did an excellent job piecing the photo together. God bless you dear.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Charles,

      Am getting tired! Ha! Missed doing one yesterday and will probably start slowing down, but thanks for thinking that these hubs are beautiful. I appreciate your comment! These churches are definitely worth a visit if ever visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico.

    • profile image

      charles criner 6 years ago

      It amazes me how you can do such beautiful work so fast. Thank you.