Welcome to La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis, or as best known: Santa Fe. Santa Fe is unlike any other city you will ever visit. Designated as a UNESCO Creative City for craft and folk arts and design, it boasts the 3rd largest art market in the country. As the country's oldest capital (established 1610 AD), Santa Fe is one of the top U.S. destinations in the world for travel, romance, culture, art, and food.
There are countless venues for the traveler, from cultural history, traditions, and architecture (Native American, Spanish and Anglo cultural history) to fine dining and the arts, there is more than one can explore or experience in a week. Below is a small example to peak your curiosity.
Plaza and Downtown
The epicenter of Santa Fe government and commerce starting over 400 years ago, your adventure into historic downtown will invigorate the senses with historic architecture, culture, and various museums.
The New Mexico History Museum opened in May 2009 and has changed the way New Mexicans and visitors understand state history and the history of the nation. The museum includes permanent and temporary exhibitions that span the early history of indigenous people, Spanish colonization, the Mexican Period, and travel and commerce on the legendary Santa Fe Trail. The museum serves as the anchor of a campus that encompasses the Palace of the Governors, the Palace Press, the Fray Angelico Chavez History Library and Photo Archives.
The Palace of the Governors was originally constructed in the early 17th century as Spain's seat of government for what is today the American Southwest. The Palace of the Governors chronicles the history of Santa Fe, as well as New Mexico and the region. This adobe structure, now the state's history museum, was designated a Registered National Historic Landmark in 1960 and an American Treasure in 1999.
The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum opened in July 1997, eleven years after the death of Georgia O'Keeffe. A visit to the museum offers insight not only into the artist's paintings, but also her creative process and the light and landscape that inspired her. In addition to the main museum in Santa Fe, the O'Keeffe Museum maintains O'Keeffe's two homes and studios in northern New Mexico, a research center and library, and a variety of collections relating to O'Keeffe and modern art.
One of the most significant artists of the 20th century, Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) was devoted to creating imagery that expressed what she called "the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it." O'Keeffe’s images include abstractions, large-scale depictions of flowers, leaves, rocks, shells, bones and other natural forms, New York cityscapes and paintings of the unusual shapes and colors of architectural and landscape forms of northern New Mexico.
The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, commonly known as St. Francis Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral in downtown Santa Fe. The cathedral was built by Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy between 1869 and 1886 on the site of an older adobe church, La Parroquia (built in 1714-1717). An older church on the same site, built in 1626, was destroyed in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt.
Influenced by the French-born Archbishop Lamy, Saint Francis Cathedral was designed in the Romanesque Revival style by architect Antoine Mouly and his son, Projectus Mouly from Paris, France. The cathedral features characteristic round arches separated by Corinthian columns and truncated square towers. The cathedral was built from yellow limestone blocks quarried near the present site of Lamy. The Cathedral of Saint Francis of Assisi was officially elevated to a basilica by Pope Benedict XVI on October 4, 2005, when it was named the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.
The history of the Loretto Chapel began when Bishop Jean Baptisite Lamy was appointed by the Church to the New Mexico Territory in 1850. Bishop Lamy, seeking to spread the faith and bring an educational system to this new territory, began a letter writing plea for priests, brothers and nuns to preach and teach. The first acceptance of his general plea was from the Sisters of Loretto.
The Sisters arrived in Santa Fe in 1852 and opened the Academy of Our Lady of Light (Loretto) in 1853. It was decided that the school needed a chapel. Property was purchased and in 1873 work began on the Loretto Chapel. Jean Baptiste Lamy who brought architect Antoine Mouly and his son, Projectus Mouly from Paris to be architects in the building of St. Francis Cathedral encouraged the sisters to utilize the father and son to design and build their dream chapel. The older Mouly had been involved in the renovation of Sainte Chapelle, in Paris, in the early 1800's. Mouly was encouraged by Jean Baptiste Lamy to fashion the Loretto Chapel after the Sainte Chapelle, which was a favorite chapel of the archbishop from his early days in Paris, France.
Stone for the Chapel was quarried from locations around Santa Fe including Cerro Colorado, about 20 miles from Santa Fe near the town of Lamy. The sandstone for the walls and the porous volcanic stone used for the ceiling were hauled to town by wagon. The ornate stained glass in the Loretto Chapel also made part of its journey to Santa Fe via wagon. Purchased in 1876 from the DuBois Studio in Paris, the glass was first sent from Paris to New Orleans by sailing ship and then by paddle boat to St. Louis, MO. where it was taken by covered wagon over the Old Santa Fe Trail to the Chapel.
The Chapel was completed in 1878 and has since seen many additions and renovations such as the introduction of the Stations of the Cross, the Gothic altar and the frescos during the 1890s. However the greatest addition is the "Miraculous Staircase." The Miraculous Staircase, which legend says was constructed or inspired by St. Joseph the Carpenter, was built sometime between 1878 and 1881. The spiral staircase is wrapped in two mysteries: 1) the identity of its builder and 2) the physics of its construction. Folklore has it took 6 months to build in which no nails were used in its construction, simply wooden pegs. The spiral staircase has two 360 degree turns with no visible means of support.
The Loretto Academy was closed in 1968, and the property was put up for sale. At the time of sale in 1971, Our Lady of Light Chapel was informally deconsecrated as a Catholic Chapel. Loretto Chapel is now a private museum operated and maintained, in part, for the preservation of the Miraculous Staircase and the Chapel itself.
Considered the oldest church in the United States, this little chapel was built around 1610 AD. It has subsequently been rebuilt and restored several times over its near 400 year life span. Much of the artwork seen was created in the early to mid-18th century. The altar was constructed in 1798 and is one of the oldest in New Mexico. The original San Jose Bell installed in 1856 fell in 1872 after a strong storm collapsed the bell tower. The San Jose bell remains on display within the chapel.