Western Trips

Western Trips

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Oldest Church in the United States / Santa Fe New Mexico

san miguel mission in santa fe
What claims to be the oldest church still standing in the United States can be found in beautiful Santa Fe New Mexico.

The Oldest Settlement in the U.S.

Santa Fe also claims to be the oldest settlement in the United States having been established in 1609 by the Spaniards.

The uniqueness of Santa Fe is the reason it's considered a worldwide tourist destination. The art, traditional adobe architecture and both the Spanish and Native American culture make a Santa Fe vacation both a fun and educational experience. When you're putting together your vacation planner and are listing things to do in Santa Fe, a visit to the San Miguel Mission is a must stop.

I spend some time each year in Santa Fe and I can tell you that the San Miguel Mission which is located about 4 blocks south of the Santa Fe plaza attracts a good amount of tourists. The mission is located on the Old Santa Fe Trail one block south of the historic Loretto Chapel. While the Mission San Miguel is widely recognized as being the oldest church in the U.S., there are some who argue that perhaps structures in both St. Augustine Florida and Jamestown Virginia may hold the honor. Nevertheless, the San Miguel Mission is the oldest or one of the few oldest and is a National Historic Landmark.

Building the Mission

santa fe barrio analco
The San Miguel Mission which is sometimes called the San Miguel Chapel was constructed between the years 1610 and 1626, soon after the Spaniards established Santa Fe.

As a big part of the colonization effort in Nuevo Mexico, the friars goal was to convert the Indians to Christianity. Mission San Miguel would represent the beginning of mission construction in what is now the United States.

The California missions built much later would be the last Spanish mission program in North America. The San Miguel mission was built by the Tlaxcalan Indians during the early 1600's. As most historians know, the Spaniards, through the friars, had quite a large mission building program with the Indians supplying the labor. This was one of the main causes of the pueblo rebellion that would occur decades later. The church was damaged extensively (the roof was destroyed) during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 but was repaired and rebuilt in 1710, about 18 years after the Spaniards journeyed back into what was then Nuevo Mexico.

Among some of the amazing artifacts found at San Miguel Mission are the reredos (altar screens) which date back to circa 1798 and are considered the oldest reredos in the state of New Mexico.

Santa Fe's Oldest Neighborhood

The site of San Miguel Mission is in  what is considered the oldest neighborhood of Santa Fe and many feel in all the United States.  It is the Barrio Analco and also is home to what is claimed to be the oldest home in the United States. Barrio Analco itself is home to seven historic structures. While Santa Fe is arguably the oldest settlement, Barrio Analco is the oldest neighborhood in that settlement.

The Site of Many Historic Churches and Missions

san miguel mission santa fe new mexicoSanta Fe of course is home to several historic churches and missions, Saint Francis Basilica being the largest. There is also the Loretto Chapel.

San Miguel Mission, similar to St. Francis, is an active place of worship with regular masses celebrated each Sunday. The mission is open to the public during the week and offers some excellent photo opportunities for tourists.  

There is also a small gift shop. Mission San Miguel Santa Fe is in the Catholic Churches Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

The San Miguel Mission is just a short walk south of the Santa Fe plaza and it is one of Santa Fe's historic landmarks that you don't want to miss. It's definitely one of the must see sites of Santa Fe.

You'll also enjoy are Western trips photo article on the link below...

The Santa Fe Plaza and the Santa Fe Trail

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting Peter. This is a fantastic historical monument that we about lost in 2003 to an earthquake. The mission was fairly close to the epicenter of the quake and there were some pretty substantial foundation issues post the quake. It took them quite a while to get it repaired and open again for the public.

    If you are thinking of visiting the San Miguel Mission or just Santa Fe check us out we have several vacations right near the Missions.



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