Tour the oldest Church in the continental USA
San Miguel Chapel was erected in 1610 to serve the Spanish military that had settled in this area. Original documentation was either sent back to Spain or was burned in the Pueblo uprising when the roof and part of the structure was burned. Documentation does exist as far back as 1628 making San Miguel the oldest church in the continental United States with services continually provided since it was built.
Few people question whether or not the San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is the oldest Church in the United States, but many do question just how old it is. It is no easy task to sift historical fact from traditional belief. The earliest documentation we have of the existence of San Miguel Chapel is from 1628, so we know it was built sometime before then. Oral history holds that San Miguel Chapel was built around 1610, and it has been rebuilt and restored several times over the past 400 years. The original church, the “Hermita de San Miguel,” was built on the site of an ancient kiva of the Analco Indians. It is believed that it was constructed by Tlaxcalan (Tas-cal’-en) Indians, who came to New Mexico from old Mexico in 1598 with a Spanish contingent led by Don Juan Onate. In its early years, the church served a small group of Tlaxcalan Indians, laborers, and Spanish soldiers who lived in this area on the south side of the Santa Fe River.The wooden altar screen, or reredos, at the front of San Miguel Chapel is one of the oldest in New Mexico. The inscription on the lower left-hand corner reads: “This altar was erected through the piety of Don Jose Antonio Ortis in the year 1798.”
In the center of the reredos is a statue of San Miguel (St. Michael), the patron of San Miguel Chapel. It was carved in old Mexico around 1700 and was brought by Franciscan Friars to Santa Fe. Above the statue of San Miguel is a large painting of Christ the Nazarene that dates from the mid-18th century and was rediscovered behind the altar screen by archaeologists in 1955.
Fourteen lovely stations of the cross line the walls of the Chapel. They were carved by a very talented Mexican artisan named Ramon Rochas in 1956. He spent three months in Santa Fe working on the project.
At the back of the chapel is a showcase which was once a door. Here the very thick walls of the adobe structure are revealed. Above the showcase is a reproduction of Our Lady of Guadalupe, believed to be one of the first copies from Old Mexico.
The Chapel is open during most of the week for prayer and for visitors.
Tours are available as well. Call David Blackman to set up your tour (505) 660-9997. Donations are appreciated to help preserve San Miguel.