Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi (Video)
Juan de Oñate, accompanied by Franciscan friars, first colonized the New Mexico region in 1598, establishing Santa Fé de Nuevo México as a province of New Spain. In 1608 Pedro de Peralta founded La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asís, the oldest capital city in what is the modern United States, at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The principal cathedral and the mother church of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe is the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, named after the patron saint of the city.
The cathedral was built by Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy (1814–1888) between 1869 and 1886 on the site of two earlier churches: a church that had been built in 1626 but had been destroyed in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, and La Parroquia, an adobe church built between 1714 and 1717. The new cathedral was built around La Parroquia, which was dismantled after construction was complete. A small chapel on the north side of the cathedral is all that remains of the old church. It is dedicated to Our Lady La Conquistadora. Brought from Spain in 1625, the statue is the oldest representation of the Virgin Mary in the United States. A statue in front of the Cathedral honors Father Lamy, who is buried in the crypt beneath the cathedral floor.
Above the altar is the San Damiano Crucifix, an exact replica of the crucifix in Assisi, Italy. The altar screen, or reredos, was created for the 100th anniversary of the Cathedral in 1986. In the center is a statue of St. Francis surrounded by those of New World saints.
The Cathedral of Saint Francis of Assisi was officially elevated to a basilica by Pope Benedict XVI on October 4, 2005.
For a good interactive high-resolution panoramic tour of the Cathedral Basilica of St Francis, see