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

Updated on February 15, 2018
Peggy W profile image

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

Lots of adobe construction in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Lots of adobe construction in Santa Fe, New Mexico | Source

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 | Source

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. | Source

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! | Source

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.

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

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. | Source

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.

A
San Miguel Chapel:
401 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA

get directions

Oldest Church in the U.S.A.

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. | Source

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.

Santa Fe is the oldest and highest capital city in the United States.

All the buildings are southwestern adobe in style.
All the buildings are southwestern adobe in style. | Source

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. | Source

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.

Do you think that you would enjoy visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico after this introduction?

See results

Questions & Answers

  • Does it snow in Santa Fe, NM?

    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

Comments are welcomed.

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    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      12 days ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi C E Clark,

      Yes, we have visited the Loretto Chapel and I have also written about it plus a couple other churches in Santa Fe. That staircase is amazing! Glad you are enjoying cooler temperatures. No more 100 degree temps for the year. Nice!

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      13 days ago from North Texas

      Santa Fe has a lot of amazing old architecture. I don't recall if you have also written about the Loretto Chapel that has a spiral staircase made of wood with no nails? It's located in Santa Fe also. For some reason that staircase sticks in my mind after having seen so many unusual things in Santa Fe and elsewhere.

      These things you are writing about here should also be on everyone's to visit list when they go to Santa Fe or plan to be in that area. Fortunate that you write and photograph these interesting places so that people know about them. There is just so much to see and explore. I fear many of these things such as you write about will be forgotten with so much focus on the soap opera that seems to be grabbing everyone's attention continually.

      Hope all is well with you and that these cooler temps are here to stay.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Susie,

      It is fun being able to view sites like this in person. Glad you enjoyed the view via this hub.

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 

      2 years ago from Minnesota

      I would love seeing those very old buildings. Its amazing that people can go inside to see the structures. I love visiting old churches with unique interiors. Thanks for the history and the guided tour, Peggy.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Robert,

      Nice that those buildings in Brooklyn, NY are being re-purposed.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 years ago

      Where I grew up in Brooklyn, NY the grammer school I went to and the youth center on the same block are being used for other purposes from what I'm told.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Robert,

      That is interesting that you are seeing some reuse of buildings in a different manner in your area.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 years ago

      We are starting to see some of that here as the religious demographics of an area change.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Robert,

      It is amazing how many buildings have been used over and over again for different purposes...particularly in other countries. Over here we rather tear down and build anew for the most part. Historical societies work hard to keep some of the antiquity that exists in the U.S. We saw some churches in Spain that had been used by the Muslems, Jewish and Christian people leaving behind evidence of all 3 religions in the one building.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 years ago

      A very interesting article about a very interesting place. One trivia item The Temple of Dendur is dated from the 1st Century BCE and was later used as a Christian Church. It is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello thomdrilling,

      So nice that you have enjoyed Santa Fe several times and will be going back again this August. Glad you enjoyed this hub.

    • thomdrilling profile image

      Big Dan 

      4 years ago

      Great photos and article. We have been through Santa Fe several times and are going back this August. Thanks for sharing

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Shyron,

      Nice that looking back you would not have changed your life. You have the education that so much traveling brings that is truly priceless. Many of your friends would probably have changed their summertime activities in a heartbeat to be able to do what you got to see and experience.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      5 years ago from Texas

      Hi Peg, yes it is fabulous to have seen so much of our country, at the same time it prevented long term friendships. But, I would not change my life. -Shyron

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello NMLady,

      Oh yes, we love what we have gotten to see of your state. New Mexico has some amazing sites and is also loaded with history. Thanks for your comment.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Shyron,

      Doing that much traveling with your mother and step father must have been fabulous! Undoubtedly you have many memories of those days. Nice that you have seen Santa Fe and many other places as well. Thanks for your comment, 5 star rating and the share.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Au fait,

      I have written about the Loretto Chapel in another hub. That spiral staircase and the story that accompanies it is really something! Appreciate your visit to this hub, the 5 star rating and the sharing of it with others. Thanks!

    • NMLady profile image

      NMLady 

      5 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      So much to see and do in my state! We take the Rail Runner up to Santa Fe often. Nice to read that someone else appreciates our state!!

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      5 years ago from Texas

      Peg, this is beautiful, awesome and interesting. Voted that way and gave it 5 stars and shared.

      When my mother marred my step father, we traveled every year from the last day of school to the first week before the next school year.

      And yes we were in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      One of the things I saw when I was in Santa Fe was the Loretto Chapel that had a spiral staircase with no nails holding it together. Exquisite!

      Excellent article, fabulous photos as always, great videos. Pinned to my travel board, gave you 5 more starts, voted up and beautiful/interesting, and will share!

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Suzanne,

      Sounds as though you have had some interesting moments while in New Mexico. You could write about them perhaps? Thanks for the votes and shares.

    • justmesuzanne profile image

      justmesuzanne 

      5 years ago from Texas

      New Mexico really is the land of enchantment! I have never had a chance to spend time there, but I have driven through several times. I like to go off the beaten track and visit Zuni, where they have lots of beautiful handiwork and delicious food for sale.Voted up, awesome, tweeted pinned and shared! :)

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello truthfornow,

      I have been fortunate to visit Santa Fe, New Mexico on several occasions. It truly is a unique and interesting place also filled with history such as having the oldest house and oldest church in the U.S. Amazing when you think of it! Hope that next time you are passing through, you have a bit more time to actually stay there a while and enjoy the special ambiance of the place. Thanks for your comment.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Rajan,

      That is interesting that you saw similar structures when you were a child in your country. They must use adobe over there as well. Thanks for your comment, votes, 5 star rating and the share.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 

      5 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      I love Santa Fe. It is so beautiful. I have only spent a little time there, just passing through, but I would like to spend more.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

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

      Interesting reading this travelogue and the pictures of the oldest church and the house remind me of old structures that I saw as a child in my country.

      Thanks for sharing Peggy.

      Voted up and awesome. Gave 5 stars. Shared as well.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Mary,

      Santa Fe, New Mexico is a gorgeous area filled with unique sites and history. It sounded good to us plus we actually combined a little business on our honeymoon trip. We had both purchased some land and decided to look at it while on our road trip. Mine was in Albuquerque, NM and my hubby's was in El Paso, TX. Long story! Ha! We loved seeing Santa Fe and it was years later when my mother and I enjoyed it again while on vacation. I would happily return again someday! Thanks for your comment, vote and share.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      6 years ago from Florida

      I have never been to New Mexico, but I'd sure like to go there someday. Just curious as to why you and your husband chose Santa Fe as a honeymoon site.

      Thanks for the visit and tour of Santa Fe. Your Hub was interesting and educational as well.

      I voted it UP, and will share. Mary

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Lisa,

      I know just what you mean. Santa Fe is truly a unique city offering so much in the way of charm. Thanks for your comment. Appreciate it!

    • profile image

      Lisa H. 

      7 years ago

      I love Santa Fe...it is truly a unique American city. Thanks for capturing some of it's beauty in your pictures and description. It makes me want to go back soon!

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Hello, hello,

      Glad to hear that you liked this peek into Santa Fe where the oldest church and oldest house in America are located. Thanks for your comment.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      7 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you, Peggy, for showing all these buildings and a great hub.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello SUSIE DUZY,

      Santa Fe, New Mexico is indeed a unique place offering so much in the way of culture, architecture, scenery and history as you mentioned. Thanks for the comment.

    • SUSIE DUZY profile image

      SUSIE DUZY 

      7 years ago from Delray Beach, Florida

      I was only in Santa Fe once, but I just love it and really want to go back. I love the whole feeling of the southwest, the architecture, the culture, the scenery, and the history. Thanks

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Gus,

      Glad I could take you along on an electronic visit to Santa Fe. You are most welcome and thanks for your comment.

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 

      7 years ago from USA

      Hi Peggy - A very enjoyable electronic visit to a place exhibiting a culture and sights that most folks never get to see otherwise. Thanks.

      Gus :-)))

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Simone,

      Santa Fe is a great destination and so different from most other places in the USA. Glad to hear that you liked this hub about the oldest church and the oldest house found there. Thanks for your comment.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello viking305,

      That oldest church in the USA that just happens to be in Santa Fe, New Mexico is truly an art form. So happy to hear that you enjoyed these pictures. Thanks for the comment.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Fabulous Hub! I feel like I've just gone on a mini trip to New Mexico!! The additional media compliments your writing wonderfully.

    • viking305 profile image

      L M Reid 

      7 years ago from Ireland

      Wow I would love to visit New Mexico; The old church looks fasinating and thanks for the photos, it really brings the are to life

    • viking305 profile image

      L M Reid 

      7 years ago from Ireland

      Wow I would love to visit New Mexico; The old church looks fasinating and thanks for the photos, it really brings the are to life

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Prasetio,

      Thanks for the nice comment about this hub from Santa Fe, New Mexico showing the oldest church and oldest house in the USA. Always nice hearing from you. Enjoy your weekend also. Love and peace to you!

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 

      7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Hi, Peggy. I really enjoy reading this hub. You pure traveler. I always love all your hub about beautiful place, including this one. Thanks for share stunning pictures with us. Well done, my friend. You did it again and I love it! My vote always for you. Have a nice weekend. Cheers...

      love and peace,

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Becky,

      Yes, I am happy to have been able to share that vacation in Santa Fe with my mother. We always had a great time traveling together whether it was looking at the oldest church, oldest house...or seagulls along the coast of Oregon. It really didn't matter where we were seeing new sites. Her company and comments always made the trips more special. I'm happy now for the memories. Thanks for your comment.

    • Becky Puetz profile image

      Becky 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thank you for sharing your vacation experience. Enjoyed the video too. It's nice that your mother was able to make the trip with you. Maybe I'll visit there one day. Great Hub.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Genna East,

      So nice of you to say that you enjoy these tours like this segment of our vacation in Santa Fe. Thanks for the comment. :-)

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello GNelson,

      If Santa Fe is one of your three favorite places in the USA to visit...what are your other two? San Francisco? New Orleans? New York? Just guessing on my part. Hope you come back and let us know.

      Thanks for commenting on this vacation Santa Fe hub regarding the oldest church and oldest house.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi agusfanani,

      Those thick adobe walls on the oldest church and oldest house in the USA are different from most construction used in the United States (wood, brick, etc.) and other buildings in Santa Fe are also to be found using the same adobe.

      Adobe is made from sand, clay and water and something like straw to hold it together. It can be moulded into various shapes and was used extensively at one time in that part of the country because of the availability of the materials. The sun would dry it and it would become hard similar to concrete.

      The thickness of the walls made for good insulation against the heat. Glad that I could show you something different and thanks for your comment.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      I love your tours Peggy...they're the next best thing to being there. Those older buildings are rich with history...the tales they could tell. Up and awesome.

    • GNelson profile image

      GNelson 

      7 years ago from Florida

      Santa Fe is one of my three favorite places to visit in the USA.

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 

      7 years ago from Indonesia

      It's amazing that there the oldest buildings (house and church) in America still stand in good condition in Santa Fe. The wall noticeably different and they like being constructed and made of different material. Thank you for sharing this enriching hub Peggy W.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Cheryl,

      My mother and I really enjoyed that vacation to Santa Fe together and seeing the oldest church and oldest house in the USA. Thanks for your visit and comment.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello sofs,

      Happy to hear that you liked these pictures and descriptions of the oldest church and house in the USA. Santa Fe is such a beautiful place to visit.

    • Cheryl J. profile image

      Cheryl J. 

      7 years ago from Houston, TX

      These are great photos and history of Santa Fe. I love the photos of the old church and the old house. A wonderful photo of your Mother. The art in Santa Fe is really beautiful. Thanks for sharing this lovely hub.

    • sofs profile image

      Sophie 

      7 years ago from From the land of wonders

      Lovely pictures and description there Peggy. Oh! what quaint old churches .. I love them ..thanks for sharing!!

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi dahoglund,

      Those thick adobe walls of the oldest church and oldest house in the USA as well as other Spanish structures built like that also helped to insulate against the heat and when most of them were built, there was no such thing as air conditioning as we know it today. Thanks for being the first to comment on this vacation Santa Fe hub.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I have never been to New Mexico but I find that old Spanish architecture fascinating.Even in less elaborate configurations it is so different from the mid western view.Friends of mine who have worked in Spanish culture counties fell in love with it.Up and beautiful.

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