The San Miguel Chapel is the oldest church in the continental United States and is over 400 years old. The area of Santa Fe in New Mexico has been populated for thousands of years, first as an ancient Pueblo settlement, then by the Spanish as part of their imperial conquests, next by the people of Mexico, and finally by the United States. There are many things that make the chapel unique, first from its history as a Franciscan missionary to a Catholic church as well as its architecture being built in the traditional adobe style of the region. The church is dedicated to the Archangel Michael and today it is privately owned and is open to the public to tour.
Construction of the chapel began in 1610 and the walls of the adobe building are the original walls, which requires constant upkeep to ensure they endure in the future. The ceiling of the church is held up by wooden beams, one of which is dated back to 1710. The San Miguel Chapel is located in the El Barrio de Analco National Register Historic District in Santa Fe, which also has the oldest house in the United States. There is a large oil painting of the Archangel Michael inside of the church as well as the nine panel wooden artwork that sits behind the altar. In addition to the artwork, there is the mission bell which was brought from Spain in the 17th century.
Although visiting the San Miguel Chapel will only take about thirty minutes, it is certainly worthwhile to do when visiting Santa Fe in New Mexico. The history of the chapel that was built by the Tlaxcalan Indians under direction of the Franciscan Padres is certainly quite fascinating. It is source of pride for the people of Santa Fe to this very day.
New Mexico is known for its chili peppers and the southwestern food that is made with them. We were only in Santa Fe for a couple of days, but that didn’t keep us from trying as many different options as we could. As a town, Santa Fe has a growing reputation for having a food scene with creative chefs and restaurants with interesting menus. We focused our attention on the historic downtown area, but there are excellent restaurants throughout Santa Fe.
Southwestern food is generally Mexican inspired food with an American flair. We had burritos filled with pork marinated in red chilis as well as Huevos Rancheros. We also had tempura battered green chilis as well as a delicious grilled corn and chipotle soup. Obviously there is more to the food in Santa Fe than just southwestern, it is just that they are known for that style of food. We also had a wonderful prime rib dinner at the Ranch House, although we were so hungry that we didn’t end up taking any photos of the dish. We stopped at a place called Harry’s Roadhouse on our way out of town, which featured traditional diner food that was so popular that cars had to park on the road as the parking lot was full.
Needless to say, we needed to have something cold to drink while we ate, especially with the hot summer temperatures. New Mexico has a variety of local breweries and brew pubs and we enjoyed a few different beers at the Blue Corn Brewery as well as the Second Street Brewery, which is in the Railyard Arts District. Perhaps as popular as beer are the margaritas, so we made sure to stop into the San Francisco Street Bar and Grill for a couple of their happy hour margaritas. They were a perfect mid-afternoon treat and weren’t too sour, which can sometimes be the case.
Clearly we didn’t have enough time to sample everything that Santa Fe has to offer, but we definitely enjoyed the meals that we did have. Anyone visiting Santa Fe will be pleased with all of the offerings. As always, be sure to ask your hotel staff and cab drivers for recommendations, you will often find that pleasant surprise. We ended up at Harry’s Roadhouse based upon a recommendation and we certainly weren’t disappointed. We look forward to recreating some of these wonderful dishes in the very near future.
If you want to visit a place that has a thriving art scene, some of the best food in the country, and a relaxing atmosphere, then Santa Fe, New Mexico, might just be the place for you. It isn’t all just art and food, though, there is plenty of history as well with both the oldest church in the United States as well as the oldest, continuously occupied public building in the United States. There is also a house that claims to be the oldest in the United States, but if nothing else, it one of the oldest houses depending upon the information that we have seen.
Santa Fe is about a five hour drive from Colorado Springs, so we decided to go on a quick weekend getaway and enjoy a couple of days there. Since the elevation of Santa Fe, which is about 7,200 feet (about 2,200 meters), is very similar to where we live, we didn’t have to worry about acclimating to the altitude, but for those coming from sea level, drinking plenty of water is definitely advisable. Even though it is mountainous, it is still a desert region, so expect high temperatures if you visit during the summer months. Although we didn’t have the opportunity on this trip, there are a lot of trails for hiking if you want to get out and explore the natural surroundings.
The historic downtown region is in the heart of Santa Fe and is where you will find a lot of art galleries and restaurants around almost every corner. The city was first established in 1610 by the Spanish, which also makes it the oldest state capital in the United States. You will find a lot of tourists wandering the streets, which all meander somewhat haphazardly around the central plaza where you can find some shade and grass to escape from the summer heat. In the late afternoon on weekends, you will likely find live music to enjoy as the temperatures start to become more tolerable. The historic area is also where you find the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, which is one of the must see sites in Santa Fe.
There are other churches worthy of visiting as well, including the Loretto Chapel, which is home to the Miraculous Stairway, the San Miguel Church, which is the oldest church in the United States having been built in 1610, as well as the Santuario de Guadalupe. Sitting along side of the plaza is the Palace of the Governors, also built in 1610, which is the oldest public building in the United States and where you can find vendors selling jewelry and other art in the shade of it’s roof. Not far from there is the building that claims to be the oldest house in the United States, which was built in 1646.
Whatever you do in Santa Fe, take your time and relax, everyone else will be. Whether walking in and out of the many art galleries or having a drink on one of the rooftop restaurants, no one is in a hurry to rush around as they visit the various sites. Not far from the downtown plaza is the Railyard Arts District where you can find many local artists, more breweries and restaurants, as well as catch the Road Runner Express, which is an active railway that runs between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. We certainly enjoyed our time walking the historic streets and stopped in several restaurants to have locally brewed beer, New Mexico’s southwestern food favorites, and people watch as tourists meandered the streets. We will likely return soon to enjoy one of the many spas in the area as well as get out and do some hiking.