Attractions July 13, 2017
The Oldest Church In America Is Right Here In New Mexico
Few people are aware that America’s oldest church, which has been around for over 400 years, is hiding in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Simple, beautiful, and brimming with history, the San Miguel Chapel is one attraction that you’ll want to visit.
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According to the oldest official documents still in existence, the chapel dates back to at least 1628. However, oral history suggests it was actually built around 1610.
To put that in perspective, in 1610, Jamestown was only three years old, Shakespeare was entertaining theatergoers with his plays, and Galileo was uncovering the secrets of our universe. And, in Santa Fe, the Tlaxcalan Indians who accompanied Don Juan Onate from Mexico were constructing the San Miguel Chapel.
They were not the first people to view this spot as a sacred place. Somewhere below the church is an ancient kiva that belonged to the Analco Indians.
The chapel not only has a lengthy past, but it also has an eventful history - it has been restored numerous times over the centuries.
A provincial governor was the first to damage it, in 1640, during a falling out with church authorities. Then came the Pueblo Revolt (a.k.a Popé's Rebellion) in 1680 when famine and Spanish officials’ crackdown on Native religions provoked the Pueblo People to rise up and fight, driving the Spanish out of New Mexico.
During the conflict, the San Miguel Chapel was damaged once more. After the return of Spanish rule, the roof was fixed and the church repaired. (Pictured is a statue of Popé, the leader of the Pueblo Revolt.)
This historical photograph dates back to 1873 and shows the tiers that were added to the chapel during the 1840s.
Thirty years later, a bad storm knocked down the bell tower and its bell. Today, you can still see the 780-pound San Jose Bell.
In fact, you are even allowed to ring it!
Despite past conflict and natural disasters, the San Miguel Chapel is a peaceful place. It feels intimate – almost cozy - inside.
White walls contrast with an ornate yet rustic altar screen, built in 1798.
Carved vigas help to support the structure…
…While viewing panels in the floor reveal the old sanctuary steps that were unearthed during a restoration effort.
The San Miguel Chapel remains in use, with services available both in English and in Latin, as well!
Admission costs $1 per person.
The San Miguel Chapel is located at 401 Old Santa Fe Trail in Santa Fe.
this website for more information.
Have you explored the oldest church in the U.S. yet?
If you’re captivated by the beauty of New Mexico’s churches, you may be interested in our past article: “
These 14 Churches In New Mexico Will Leave You Absolutely Speechless.“