During our early March 2020 trip to Santa Fe, we walked from the Plaza to the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi (more commonly known as Saint Francis Cathedral). One of the things we saw at the Cathedral was the 7 and 1/2-foot-tall statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha.
I grew up Catholic, so I had heard of Kateri Tekakwitha before viewing the statute in Santa Fe. For everyone who doesn’t know, she was the first Native American canonized as a saint. According to Catholic Online,
St. Kateri Tekakwitha is the first Native American to be recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church. She was born in 1656, in the Mohawk village of Ossernenon [in what is now central New York state]…
The website says her mother was Algonquin and her father was Mohawk and gives more details about her religious life.
At age 19, Kateri Tekakwitha converted to Catholicism, taking a vow of chastity and pledging to marry only Jesus Christ. Her decision was very unpopular [among her community]…to avoid persecution, she traveled to a Christian native community south of Montreal.
Kateri was very devout and was known for her steadfast devotion…just five years after her conversion to Catholicism, she became ill and passed away at age 24, on April 17, 1680.
Estella Loretto is currently the only Native American woman working in monumental bronze sculpting. She is recognized internationally as one of the finest sculptors living today…She has studied and trained with mentors including her mother, her grandmother, and most notably with Native American sculptor Allen Houser-Haozous.
Estella was commissioned by Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan to create a monumental bronze statue of Saint Kateri, which has welcomed visitors at the entrance to Saint Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, NM, since 2003.
The 2012 article “Long Journey to Sainthood” by Staci Matlock in the Santa Fe New Mexican explains the look of Loretto’s Kateri sculpture.
While other statues and paintings of Kateri show her in traditional Mohawk dress with two braids, Loretto envisioned her more in Pueblo style. In her statue, Kateri has loose flowing hair, kind eyes and is holding four feathers with a rosary. “She’s in Pueblo country,” Loretto said when the statue was unveiled in 2003. “I’m an artist. I have to do her the way she comes to me.”
I’d often wondered why this station of Saint Kateri looked so different from other images I’d seen of her. Now I know!
I enjoyed visiting this statue and taking some photos of it. I hope if you ever travel to Santa Fe, you too can spend some time here.
This was before we realized how bad COVID-19 was going to get. We had a vague awareness that maybe we should stay at home, but our friends The Poet and the Activist from Las Vegas (Nevada, not the closer Las Vegas in New Mexico) were going to be in Albuquerque and asked if we would meet them in the middle. I had Monday off work, so we made plans to get together then.
The friends were on a pilgrimage of sorts. The Poet’s grandmother had been born in a small New Mexico town; The Poet wanted to see that place from which her ancestor had come. Of course The Activist was part of the excursion, as was a friend who’d come for the fun and to help with the driving.
The pilgrimage was also a vacation of sorts. On their way to New Mexico, they’d visited Arcosanti and stayed the night. They’d spend three nights in Albuquerque, taking a side trip to visit me and The Man in Santa Fe as well as the journey to the ancestral home.
We met at my favorite place to get lunch in Santa Fe, El Parasol at 1833 Cerrillos Road. There’s no place to sit and eat inside the restaurant, so I had suggested that we buy our lunch at the counter, then take it to a park or to the Santa Fe Plaza. However, The Poet had gotten permission for us to sit at the picnic table in front of the Baskin-Robbins next door. The Man and I each got our favorite, the vegetarian burrito with guacamole. I don’t know what the others ate, but the five of us sat at the outside table and had a leisurely lunch while chatting.
Our next destination was the Santa Fe Plaza. We drove over in our truck and our friends drove over in their car. We met near the bandstand.
Santa Fe Plaza has been the commercial, social and political center of Santa Fe since c. 1610 when it was established by Don Pedro de Peralta…In 1822 the famed Santa Fe Trail, a trade route connecting New Mexico with Missouri, was opened with its western terminus at the Santa Fe Plaza…
The Plaza is Santa Fe’s historic, cultural and geographic center. In the early days, it was found at the end of El Camino Real (the Spanish Royal Road from Mexico City), the Santa Fe Trail, and the Old Pecos Trail.
The problem with hanging out in the Plaza is that parking is a real pain. We were lucky to get a parking spot only a few blocks away. However, it was just a four-hour spot, so it was a good thing we planned to hit the road in a few hours anyway. The other problem was that I hadn’t brought enough change for the meter. I had forgotten how expensive parking can be in the tourist area of a big city. We had to ask for change at businesses three times over our four hour parking period. Groan.
We spent most of our visit sitting on benches and chatting. At one point I remembered that the Five & Dime General Store across the Plaza from where we were sitting sold souvenirs. The Poet is also a snail mail enthusiasts, so I told her that if we wanted to get postcards later, the Five & Dime would be the place to go. In fact, we did end up walking over to the store to pick out postcards. I regret not taking a photo of their great wall of postcards. Trust me, that place a huge selection of postcards representing not just Santa Fe, but the entire state of New Mexico.
At one point I left my friends briefly to take some photos of the Spitz Clock. I got several nice photos while I was on that side of the Plaza.
Later in the afternoon, my friends were ready to visit The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, commonly known as Saint Francis Cathedral. According to Wikipedia, it is
The cathedral was built by Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy between 1869 and 1886 on the site of an older adobe church, La Parroquia (built in 1714–1717). An older church on the same site, built in 1626, was destroyed in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. The new cathedral was built around La Parroquia, which was dismantled once the new construction was complete. A small chapel on the north side of the cathedral was kept from the old church.
If you want to learn more about the history of the The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, see the Parish History page of the Cathedral Basilica’s website. The page also includes a list of the archbishops of Santa Fe.
If you, like me, have wondered about the difference between a cathedral and a basilica and how one building could be both, here is some information on the topic from Busted Halo, a website with the mission to help people understand the Catholic Faith.
A cathedral is the home church for the bishop or archbishop of a Catholic diocese…
A basilica is simply an important church building designated by the pope because it carries special spiritual, historical, and/or architectural significance. Basilica is the highest permanent designation for a church building, and once a church is named a basilica, it cannot lose its basilica status.
A basilica may or may not also be the cathedral of the diocese.
Santa Fe has a distinctive architectural style all its own. No other city in the country has so many low-slung, earth-colored buildings made of adobe bricks, which consist of a mixture of sun-dried earth and straw…
Santa Fe’s historic adobe architecture evolved from early Native American dwellings that impressed the Spanish when they first arrived in the region in the 16th century…
As the Spanish settlers established communities in the region, they sought to improve the Pueblo construction methods using adobe. After all, the essential materials—mud, earth and straw—were plentiful and readily available…they designed wood molds to shape uniform adobe bricks.
Soon it was time to start heading home. We had a long drive ahead of us. It was nice to spend a day in the state capital, visiting our friends from far away.