Tour #8: Rail Runner to Sante Fe Plaza

Tuesday, June 25, 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM< Tour Price: $65

Churches of Santa Fe

Tour the San Miguel Mission Church, constructed in 1610 by Tiaxcala Indians and Franciscan Padres. Check out the beautiful St. Francis Basilica built by Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy between 1869 and 1886. Then we will tour the Loretto Chapel and its “Miraculous Staircase” to the choir loft which has two 360° turns and no visible means of support. You can then enjoy Plaza Shopping on your own before your bus ride back to Albuquerque.


San Miguel Mission

San Miguel Mission (Spanish: Misión de San Miguel), also known as San Miguel Chapel, is a Spanish colonial mission church in Santa Fe. Built between approximately 1610 and 1626, it is the oldest known church in the continental United States. The church was damaged during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 but was rebuilt in 1710 following the Spanish reconquest and served for a time as a chapel for the Spanish soldiers. The wooden reredos, which includes a wooden statue of Saint Michael dating back to at least 1709, was added in 1798. Though the church has been repaired and rebuilt numerous times over the years, its original adobe walls are still largely intact despite having been hidden by later additions.



San Miguel Chapel

San Miguel Mission Altar (1978)

San Miguel Mission Altar (1934)

San Miguel Mission Bell


Visit the San Miguel Chapel Website


Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, commonly known as Saint Francis Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral in downtown Santa Fe. It is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

The cathedral was built by Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy between 1869 and 1886 on the site of an older adobe church, La Parroquia (built between 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.

Influenced by the French-born Archbishop Lamy and in dramatic contrast to the surrounding adobe structures, Saint Francis Cathedral was designed in the Romanesque Revival style. As such, the cathedral features characteristic round arches separated by Corinthian columns and truncated square towers. The large rose window in front and those of the Twelve Apostles in the lateral nave windows were imported from Clermont-Ferrand in France. The towers were originally planned to be topped with dramatic 160-foot steeples, but due to lack of funds, these were never built. The left tower is a single row of bricks taller than the right tower. The cathedral was built from yellow limestone blocks quarried near the present site of Lamy. A 2005 addition to the upper facade of the cathedral is a small, round window featuring a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit. It is a stained glass replica of the translucent alabaster window designed in the 17th century by the Italian artist Bernini for St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

The Cathedral of Saint Francis of Assisi was officially elevated to a basilica by Pope Benedict XVI on October 4, 2005, when it was named the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.

The Altar of the St. Francis Cathedral

St. Francis Cathedral

Bronze Doors w/ history of church in Santa Fe


Visit the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi’s Website


Loretto Chapel

The Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, is a former Roman Catholic church that is now used as a museum and a wedding chapel. It is known for its unusual helix-shaped spiral staircase (the “Miraculous Stair”). The name and origin of the builder have still not been verified. The Sisters of Loretto credited St. Joseph with its construction, at the time.

It has been the subject of legend, and the circumstances surrounding its construction and its builder were considered miraculous by the Sisters of Loretto.

The chapel was commissioned by the Sisters of Loretto for their girls’ school, Loretto Academy, in 1873. Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy had brought in two French architects, Antoine Mouly and his son Projectus, to work on the St. Francis Cathedral project, and suggested that the Sisters could make use of their services on the side to build a much-needed chapel for the academy. Projectus ended up being the main architect for the project, basing his Gothic Revival design — complete with spires, buttresses, and stained glass windows imported from France via the Santa Fe Trail — on the famous Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. The chapel was built from locally quarried sandstone and took five years to complete. It was officially consecrated in 1878.

The staircase was built sometime between 1877 and 1881. By this point the chapel was substantially complete but still lacking access to the choir loft, possibly due to the unexpected death of the architect, Projectus Mouly, in 1879. According to the version of events passed down by the Sisters of Loretto, multiple builders were consulted but were not able to find a workable solution due to the confined quarters. In response the nuns prayed for nine straight days to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the last day of the novena, a mysterious stranger appeared and offered to build the staircase. He worked in seclusion using only a few simple hand tools and disappeared afterwards without the Sisters learning his identity. More fantastical versions of the story have the work taking place overnight, while according to others it took six to eight months.

In any event, the finished staircase was an impressive work of carpentry, seeming to defy physics as it ascended 20 feet without any obvious means of support. The Sisters of Loretto viewed its construction as a miracle and believed that the mysterious builder must have been St. Joseph himself. As the story spread, the staircase became one of Santa Fe’s most famous tourist attractions.

The staircase as originally built lacked handrails and was reportedly so frightening to descend that some of the nuns and students did so on their hands and knees. Eventually, railings were added in 1887 by another craftsman, Phillip August Hesch. The stairs have been mostly closed to the public since the chapel became a privately run museum in the 1960s.

Loretto Academy circa 1904

Loretto Chapel’s Spiral Staircase

Loretto Chapel Interior

Visit the Loretto Chapel Website


One-way Driving time:  1½ hours.

Tour includes:  Train to Santa Fe and Motor Coach return, shuttle bus in Santa Fe, tickets to 3 churches, taxes and gratuity. Lunch is on your own. 

Special Wear:  None

ADA Compliant: