Ash Wednesday in the City of Holy Faith, Santa Fe, New Mexico

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Izzy and Colin ready to start a day of sight-seeing at the New Mexico state Capitol

A pleasant over-night in the Santa Fe KOA, with plans to spend all of today enjoying the the sights of this oldest State Capital city in the USA. Seems a little odd since New Mexico was the 47th state added to the Union in 1912. But the claim stems from the the city’s age, ranking as second oldest city in the United States following Saint Augustine, Florida. It also boasts a very impressive permanent display of all genres of art in its 4 -storied structure. It surprised us that we were treated to a personally led tour (with just the four of us) with a very friendly, knowledgable guide that lasted for over an hour!

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I was hailed with a robust “Semper Fi” from this old WW2 Marine Vet who was making a visit to the Capitol. I requested a picture with him, and he graciously agreed.

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The Loretto Chapel was a non-missable destination. We have both been long-intrigued (too mild a word, but can’t think of a more appropriate one at the moment) with the story of the Miraculous Staircase within this relatively small Chapel. Those of you who know the story, and, or have seen it yourselves can attest to its uniqueness and universal appeal.

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An abbreviated version is here provided for those not aware of the story (legend?). The Chapel itself was designed and mostly built by a father/son architect team from Paris, hired by the local bishop, Frenchman Jean Baptiste Lamy. The father became ill and returned to Paris before completion of the Chapel and left the work to his son. The Chapel was completed under the son’s supervision, but missing a glaring piece of construction. There was no way to get from the floor of the Chapel to the Choir Loft 20 feet up at the back of the sanctuary. This was still the situation when the son died in 1879, leaving the good sisters of Loretto with no access to their Choir loft. The sisters had placed the construction of the Chapel under the patronage of St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters and builders. So they did the only logical thing: They began a nine day Novena to St. Joseph asking for his intervention. On the ninth day, an old, itinerant man riding a donkey came to the sisters and offered to build the staircase. His only tools (as listed in the Mother Superior’s Daily Book) were, a saw, hammer, carpenter square, and some wood chisels. It is not recorded how long the construction took, estimates are eight months, as the carpenter would never allow anyone inside to see his work as it progressed. There were absolutely no nails, screws, or center support used in the original construction. When the Carpenter finished the job, he left as mysteriously as he had come, leaving behind no bills and accepting no payment from the sisters.

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This is an artist’s sketch of what the staircase would have looked like prior to adding the balustrade and railings. There are no known photos of the newly completed staircase. It remained without the railings for eight years, being used by nuns and students alike to get to and from the choir loft for that time. The staircase is no longer used, it’s uniqueness too valuable to endanger.

The Loretto Chapel itself is no longer a consecrated church, as it was sold to a private entity in 1968 following the closing of the school that the Sisters of Loretto had run continuously since 1853, It is now used frequently for weddings, but, ironically (sadly?), Catholics can’t be married there if they want to have a Sacramental Marriage.

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Kind of a big deal to make this claim! A tiny little church and still has daily Mass. Our Colin was majorly impressed that they had the giant 700 lb cast bronze bell just inside the entry door, and yes! The proctor/volunteer would allow him to strike the bell with the bell mallet AS HARD AS HE WANTED TO SWING IT!!!  Holy Happiness for a hands-on-everything-teen-age boy!!  🙂

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The Basilica Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi was next on the Visit list. It is a magnificent structure in its own right, also built at the time of Bishop Lamy’s term of office. It stands out dramatically within the Spanish/Colonial/Pueblo styles of architecture that dominate the rest of the city. Bishop Lamy was French to the core and was adamant that his church would look like the churches of France. He imported French carpenters and stone masons and they in turn taught the techniques to the local artisans.

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It pleased me greatly that one of the two Saints honored with beautiful stained glass was of St. Catherine (with a “C”, thank you!)

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Our third stop for the day was the newly built New Mexico History Museum. We were a little put off by the entry fee of $12/person. But the receptionist took a look at my USMC cap and asked if I was a Veteran. After showing her my Veteran stamped Iowa Driver’s License, she politely said “No Charge for you and family, sir. And thank you for your service”. Great feeling, that!!  And a very fine museum it was too. The connection between New Mexico and all things Atomic and Nuclear is astounding. The highlight of course being the site of the design and creation of the world’s first atomic bomb, which took place within 35miles of Santa Fe. The detonation of the bomb was also in New Mexico at Alamagordo, 200 miles south of Santa Fe.

A great deal of “Balanced Presentation” was seen in the historical timeline of the state. From the natives of pre-written history, through the exploration by the Spanish, the influence of the Catholic Church, the battles of nationality between Spain, Mexico and the United States, America’s own Civil War, was all was covered without showing glorification or condemnation. The viewer was given all the facts and pertinent information, and could come to their own conclusions.

It was a hurried departure to be able to make it back to the Basilica for the 5:30 Ash Wednesday Mass. The 4th Mass of the day, and the church was FULL! A woman cantor with a heavenly voice singing all Mass responses in both Spanish and English,  seven women attendants to assist with ashes and communion distribution, an excellent homily, and a mostly female choir had me really impressed with the inclusion of women in the sacrifice of the Mass in this diocese.

Expecting moderate enough temperatures to be back on the bike tomorrow. Think warm thoughts!

Thanks for coming along!

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Ash Wednesday in the City of Holy Faith, Santa Fe, New Mexico”

  1. Beautiful pictures and such rich history from Santa Fe! I learned quite a bit just from your blog! Sounds like you were busy from sun up to sunset with your exploring! I loved that Colin was able to ring the bell! And the mystery of that gorgeous spiral staircase is just amazing. So intrigued!

    Sending you warm thoughts and safe riding today!

    Love and hugs and prayers!
    Cindy Sue

    Liked by 1 person

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