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Santa Fe, NM: Home of the Oldest Church and House in the USA

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Lots of adobe construction in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Lots of adobe construction in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Many people who live in Europe and other places are used to buildings that have been utilized for various purposes throughout the centuries. Some such buildings took hundreds of years to construct, making them even more awe-inspiring. These people might not be greatly impressed with the age of the oldest church and house in the USA. I, on the other hand, was astonished by both their age and beauty.

The United States is still a very young country, and by our standards, these structures are truly old. I will share pictures of a vacation that my mother and I took some years ago when we discovered these edifices. When my husband and I honeymooned in Santa Fe, New Mexico many decades ago, we also visited these historic sites.

Sign outside of the oldest church. San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe

Sign outside of the oldest church. San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe

San Miguel Chapel

Cited as the oldest church in the United States of America and in continual use since the 17th century this is definitely a site to visit for those who appreciate history.

The original 5 foot thick adobe walls withstood the Pueblo uprising of 1680 when the native Indians revolted against the mistreatment and religious domination of their Spanish rulers at that time.

The Christian Brothers operate the church.

St. Michael's High School is adjacent to the church.

San Miguel Chapel, Sante Fe, New Mexico. Oldest church structure in the US. Original adobe walls built in approximately 1610AD.

San Miguel Chapel, Sante Fe, New Mexico. Oldest church structure in the US. Original adobe walls built in approximately 1610AD.

The old San Jose Bell which was hung in the tower of the oldest church in America and which was rung through the years countless times now is displayed in the souvenir room since 1951.

The bell bears the Spanish inscription which means "Saint Joseph pray for us, August 9 of 1356."

Just think of the generations of people who have heard the ringing of that old and historic bell!

Look at the date on that beam inside of San Miguel Chapel!

Look at the date on that beam inside of San Miguel Chapel!

Interior of San Miguel Chapel

The old rustic hand carved beams supporting the timbers near the ceiling are dramatic. The natural wood tones against the white washed adobe walls are counterbalanced by the wooden pews on the floor.

The altarpiece at the front of the chapel is certainly the focal point.

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 	 Santa Fe, NM USA - Altar (1798) of the Chapel of San Miguel

Santa Fe, NM USA - Altar (1798) of the Chapel of San Miguel

It consists of oil paintings and wood carvings and was constructed at the request of Don Jose Antonio Ortiz in 1798.

This definitely reflects Old Spanish and Spanish Colonial style.

Near the bottom center of the altarpiece is a wooden statue of Santo San Miguel (Saint Michel) that was brought to Santa Fe in the mid 1600s.

One of the Stations of the Cross inside San Miguel Chapel.

One of the Stations of the Cross inside San Miguel Chapel.

Stations of the Cross

As in most Catholic churches San Miguel Chapel has the Stations of the Cross. They are attached to the interior walls where parishioners and/or visitors can see the story of the life of Christ unfold before their eyes in a representational way.

The picture that I took of this eleventh Station of the Cross portrays Jesus being nailed to the cross. All of these beautifully carved pieces were created by a Mexican artist by the name of Ramon Rochas. It took him three months to hand carve all fourteen of them back in 1956.

While not a large space this San Miguel Chapel has serviced the needs of congregants for centuries and may still do so for centuries to come. Mass is held each Sunday at 5pm and a daily Latin mass is performed at 2pm. The chapel is open at other times for touring and for people who wish to say prayers.

Oldest House in America

The picture below shows my mother standing outside of the oldest house in the U.S.A. In reality it is a remnant of a Pre Spanish adobe Indian pueblo first seen by white men in the time of Coronado dating back to 1541. An addition to the oldest house was created in the latter part of the 1800s and now serves as a gift shop.

This original house is very primitive with thick adobe walls, low ceilings and dirt floors. It serves as a small museum. The gift shop adjacent to it is more modern inside.

The oldest house is located right across the street from the oldest church. There is plenty of free parking nearby plus free admission. Contact this number for hours of operation: 505-988-1944.

The video below does a great job of showing much of the interior as well as that of the oldest church and other structures of note in Santa Fe.

My mother standing outside of the oldest house in the U.S.A.

My mother standing outside of the oldest house in the U.S.A.

This terrific video shows Santa Fe's oldest house, oldest church and other notable sites.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

This locale was originally inhabited by native Indians. Through the years native Americans such as the Anasazi, Pueblo and Apache among others have left their marks.

In the early part of the 1600s Spanish settlement was established. The first name of this colonial capital was La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco.

During westward expansion of the United States the Spanish rule was ousted in 1846. But the flavor of this largest city in New Mexico has retained influences from the settlements of all of those who have preceded the present day residents.

Building codes are strict and limitations are set as to the appearance of any new construction so as to keep the charm and preserve the historic nature of this old city.

All the buildings are southwestern adobe in style.

All the buildings are southwestern adobe in style.

Situated at an elevation of around 7,000 feet surrounded by the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (Sangre de Christo means "Blood of Christ" in Spanish) the unique and charming Santa Fe, New Mexico presents an ambiance like no other American city.

Interstate 25 approaching Santa Fe with Sangre de Christo Mountains in background.

Interstate 25 approaching Santa Fe with Sangre de Christo Mountains in background.

It is no wonder that Santa Fe attracts tourists. It has become a mecca for artists who capture a sense of this "Land of Enchantment" via their selected mediums whether it be in sculptural form, paintings, tapestry, jewelry or other expressions.

Other forms of art such as music, dance and opera are also well represented. Numerous art galleries flourish in this setting!

Built around a central plaza with streets radiating out from there much of Santa Fe can be explored on foot. Dazzling treasures await discovery for tourists and residents alike.

Hopefully you enjoyed this post and now know a bit more about the oldest church and the oldest house in the USA.

Obviously there is much more for tourists as well as residents of Santa Fe, New Mexico to see and enjoy. This historic city awaits your visit.

Sources:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Does it snow in Santa Fe, NM?

Answer: Yes, it snows in Santa Fe, New Mexico during the colder months of the year. The first time I ever visited that town was in early November and there were light amounts of snow on the ground. My husband and I had wanted to go further north to Taos but canceled those plans that year due to much heavier snow accumulations and icy road predictions.

© 2011 Peggy Woods

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