of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico

The Catholic Church is deeply involved in the history of New Mexico. Fray Marcos de Niza, a Franciscan, first saw the land we now call New Mexico in 1539 and reported on the rich possibilities to be found there. All the early expeditions into this "New Kingdom of St. Francis" included Franciscan missionaries, many of whom stayed behind and were martyred by the Indians once the Spanish soldiers returned to Mexico. The first permanent settlement, San Gabriel, was founded in 1598 by Juan de Onate near present day San Juan Pueblo. This settlement served as the capital of New Mexico until 1610 when the capital was relocated to its present location - Santa Fe. Prompted by legitimate grievances, the Pueblo Indian Revolt of 1680 drove the Spanish settlers out of New Mexico and killed many Franciscan missionaries. The Indians destroyed all which reminded them of the Spanish and their God. Monumental churches and conventos which had been built by the Franciscans during their missionary work among the Indians were destroyed. The Spanish retreated to and settled in the vicinity of El Paso del Norte (present day El Paso-Juarez) where a mission had been established several years before.

In 1692, newly appointed Governor Diego de Vargas, restored Spanish authority, both civil and religious, to New Mexico. He, along with colonists, troops, and missionaries reentered New Mexico in 1693. The new Franciscan friars who accompanied him immediately proceeded to rebuild or restore the destroyed churches, as well as to build new ones in isolated and remote villages throughout New Mexico. Episcopal jurisdiction was granted in 1797 and all the churches in New Mexico were secularized and made responsible to the Bishop of Durango. When Mexico declared her independence from Spain in 1821 the Franciscan friars lost their support and withdrew from New Mexico. This area remained part of the Diocese of Durango until 1850.

On July 19, 1850, Pope Pius IX created the Vicariate Apostolic of New Mexico and appointed Father Jean Baptiste Lamy as its first Bishop. Bishop Lamy arrived in New Mexico in the summer of 185 1. His early efforts were directed to the building of more churches, the creation of new parishes and the establishment of educational and medical facilities. By 1853, the Vicariate Apostolic had become a See in its own right, the Diocese of Santa Fe, and on February 12, 1875, the Diocese of Santa Fe was elevated to an Archdiocese with Bishop Lamy as its first Archbishop. In 1869 Bishop Lamy began building a stone cathedral, to replace the old adobe church, parts of which had served the parishioners of Santa Fe since 1717 (the Conquistadora Chapel is all that remains). The new stone Cathedral was built around and over the old church, in the style of the Romanesque churches of France familiar to Bishop Lamy. By 1884 the main part of the Cathedral was finished and the old church was torn down from under it. Archbishop Lamy died on February 14, 1888 and is buried under the sanctuary floor of his beloved St. Francis Cathedral. He was succeeded as Archbishop of Santa Fe by John Baptist Salpointe. Archbishop John Baptist Pitaval, fifth Archbishop of Santa Fe, dedicated the bronze statue of Archbishop Lamy which stands in front of the Cathedral on May 23, 1915.

Just as New Mexico originally extended beyond its present limits, so did the limits of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. The territory to be covered was so immense, however, that in time the Archdiocese began dividing itself into other entities. In 1868 the Vicariate of Arizona and Colorado were created. These later became dioceses in their own right. The southernmost part of New Mexico has in the past been part of the Dioceses of Dallas and of El Paso which was created on March 3, 1914. This area is now the Diocese of Las Cruces which was created on October 18, 1982. The north western and west central portion of New Mexico became part of the Diocese of Gallup when it was created on December 16, 1939.

On October 7, 1945 the Archdiocese of Santa Fe was solemnly consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and in 1954, a Marian Year, Pope John XXIII formally crowned New Mexico's own image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, "La Conquistadora, " as queen of the archdiocese. This statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary known as La Conquistadora, Our Lady of the Conquest, was brought to New Mexico by Fray Alonso de Benevides in 1625 and has meant a great deal to all the people of New Mexico since then. In 1992, the title of "Our Lady of Peace" was added by Archbishop Robert Sanchez.

The liturgical center and "cathedra" or chair of the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe to this day remain in Santa Fe. Administrative offices of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, however, were relocated to Albuquerque by Archbishop James Peter Davis, ninth Archbishop of Santa Fe, in 1967. The administration of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe is now conducted from offices located at the Catholic Center on the West Mesa in Albuquerque.

At present the Archdiocese of Santa Fe covers an area of 61,142 square miles. There are 91 parish seats and 216 active missions throughout this area.



John Baptist Lamy, 1875-1885

John Baptist Salpointe, 1885-1894

Placid Louis Chapelle, 1894-1897

Peter Bourgade, 1899-1908

John Baptist Pitaval, 1909-1918

Albert Thomas Daeger, OFM, 1912-1932

Rudolph Aloysius Gerken, 1933-1943

Edwin Vincent Byrne, 1943-1963

James Peter Davis, 1964-1974

Robert Fortune Sanchez, 1974-1993

Michael Jarboe Sheehan, 1993-

UP ARROW Return to "About the Archdiocese"

  Return to ASF Home Page

  Return to Site Map

Copyright 1997 Archdiocese of Santa Fe
Contact the Archdiocese: chancellor@archdiocesesantafe.org