The City of Santa Fe was founded in 1610, and that same year the first church was built on the site of St. Francis Cathedral. The original adobe church was replaced in 1630 by a larger one, which was destroyed by the Pueblo Indian Revolt of 1680.
The expelled Spaniards returned in 1693, but were not able to rebuild the church until 1714. This new church was named in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Santa Fe. The only part of this church still existing is the small adobe chapel dedicated to Our Lady La Conquistadora. Brought from Spain in 1625, the statue is the oldest representation of the Virgin Mary in the United States.
In 1850, Santa Fe received its first Bishop, Father John Baptiste Lamy of France. Judging the 1714 old adobe church to be inadequate for the seat of the Archdiocese, Bishop Lamy ordered a new Romanesque church built, and brought French architects and Italian stonemasons to build his Cathedral. Construction began in 1869 and continued until 1887. The new Cathedral was built around the former adobe church and, when the new walls were complete, the old church was torn down and removed through the front door. The stained glass windows in the lower bay are from France and depict the twelve apostles. Seven archbishops, including Lamy, are buried in the sanctuary.
The Cathedral was dedicated in 1887, but the spires were never completed due to lack of funds. During the most recent structural renewal in 1967, the Cathedral was strengthened, new sacristies were added, and a Blessed Sacrament Chapel was built. In 1987, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the stone church, a monumental altar screen depicting famous saints of North and South America was installed.
The Cathedral was elevated to a Basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. Basilica means a church of particular importance in Rome and abroad. Churches are honored by the Holy Father because of their importance in the history of spreading Catholicism.
St. Francis Cathedral Basilica is a Eucharistically-centered faith community whose life is formed by a baptismal commitment to Christ, nourished by Scripture, Church teachings, and the Sacraments, supported by membership in the worldwide Roman Catholic communion of believers, and put into practice by service and involvement in the world. It is a community with a long and rich history, where all are welcome.