|We looked through all of the brochures last night & decided to head downtown to the Plaza area. It seems every major city in this state has one. We decided to give our feet a break for at least part of the day & take an 8 mile, 1 1/2 hr open air trolley ride tour. That was a brilliant decision. Just finding a place to park our truck was a major feat. The streets are narrow & go every which way! You can get lost easily. Our guide Dave was a jewel. This is what we learned.
Santa Fe, at nearly 7,000 feet above sea level , is the United States highest state capital in elevation. It was the capital of Nuevo México, a province of New Spain explored by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado and established in 1515. The town was formally founded and made a capital in 1610, making it the oldest capital city and perhaps tied with Jamestown, Virginia (1607) for second oldest surviving American city founded by European colonists, behind St. Augustine, Florida (1565). In 1912 New Mexico became the country's 47th state, with Santa Fe as its capital.
The Spanish laid out the city according to the "Laws of the Indies", town planning rules and ordinances which had been established in 1573 by King Phillip II. The fundamental principle was that the town be laid out around a central plaza. On its north side was the Palace of the Governors, while on the East was the church that later became the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.
An important style implemented in planning the city was the radiating grid of streets centering from the central Plaza. Many were narrow and included small alley-ways, but each gradually merged into the more casual byways of the agricultural perimeter areas. As the city grew throughout the 19th century, the building styles evolved too, so that by Statehood in 1912, the eclectic nature of the buildings caused it to look like "Anywhere USA". The city government realized that the economic decline, which had started more than twenty years before with the railway moving west and the Federal government closing down Fort Marcy, might be reversed by the promotion of tourism.
To achieve that goal, the city created the idea of imposing a unified building style - the Spanish Pueblo Revival look, which was based on work done restoring the Palace of the Governors. The sources for this style came from the many defining features of local architecture: vigas and canales from many old adobe homes, churches built many years before and found in the Pueblos, and the earth-toned, adobe-colored look of the exteriors.
After 1912 this style became official: all buildings were to be built using these elements. By 1930 there was a broadening to include the "Territorial", a style of the pre-statehood period which included the addition of portals and white-painted window and door pediments.
By an ordinance passed in 1958, new and rebuilt buildings, especially those in designated historic districts, must exhibit a Spanish Territorial or Pueblo style of architecture, with flat roofs and other features suggestive of the area's traditional adobe construction. However, many contemporary houses in the city are built from lumber, concrete blocks, and other common building materials, but with stucco surfaces (sometimes referred to as "faux-dobe") reflecting the historic style.
The city is well-known as a center for arts that reflect the multi-cultural character of the city. There are many outdoor sculptures, with styles running the whole spectrum from Baroque to Post-modern. The town and the surrounding areas have a high concentration of artists.
It was an awesome ride! Many of the pics were taken on the fly so bear with me ok? My goal is to give you a flavor of the area, maybe to encourage you to come here sometime. The truth is you could spend a month here & not see it all! On our tour we passed artists homes, museums, historic Route 66, the State Capitol, galleries & beautiful sculptures. We took a 5 minute break in order to photograph the sculpture "Journey's End." It was as beautiful as the similar sculptures we saw in Albuquerque.
But perhaps what the town is best known for is the Loretto Chapel. And it was certainly our favorite.
Construction of the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1882. Bishop Lamy who was French, commissioned it as a strictly Gothic design. The first Gothic structure west of the Mississippi, it is 25 feet by 75 and reaches a height of 85 feet.
When the building was almost finished someone noticed that while the chapel was beautiful, as was the choir loft, there was no way to get from one to other.
The sisters summoned carpenter after carpenter who told them that a 21 foot staircase in such a small space could simply not be built. Why not tear down the choir loft and begin again, both a daunting and heartbreaking task. The sisters began to pray to Saint Joseph.
In answer a grey haired man with a donkey and tool chest came to the convent and asked if he might have a try at building what would be known as the Miraculous Staircase.
When the work was complete the man simply disappeared as suddenly as he appeared and couldn't be found to accept any pay for the job. Nor was there any charges for lumber at the local lumber yard.
The Miraculous Staircase has 33 steps and makes two complete turns of 360°. The staircase, unlike every other spiral staircase in the world, has no center support and no one can really explain how the thing stands up and bears weight.
Wooden pegs, rather than nails, were used.
The sisters remember the old carpenter using only hammer, saw and T square. They also remember pieces of wood soaking in tubs of water
Nobody has actually pinned down exactly where the wood in the structure came from. The wood is not native to New Mexico.
Who actually built the Miraculous Staircase? Some people think it was St. Joseph himself!
I can't begin to describe the beauty & the serenity inside this place. Everything about it was breathtaking. The altar is hand carved from wood & made to look like marble. It was made in Italy & is unaltered since installation in the chapel in 1910. At the base of the altar is a bas-relief of The Last Supper.
The stained glass pane window above the front doors represents the ancient symbol of Jesus at the top, & the Alpha & Omega in the lower panes. It is so beautiful!
The stations of the cross, Mary, Joseph with Jesus & the two alter angels were made in Italy & sent to Santa Fe by ship & wagon. The statuary is not carved marble but is made of marble dust slurry pounded into molds and fired like ceramic. Each was hand painted. The stations were a way to tell a story, even to those who could not read. The beautiful stations & the statuary in the Loretto Chapel were the inexpensive statuary of the 1800's. Today these pieces are priceless! The last 11 photos I am posting today are of the stations. I think they are so beautiful, I just have to share them with you.
We had a terrific day. Larry wanted to try to get cheese enchilada's just one more time before we leave New Mexico so we went to a place down the street from the plaza, recommended by Dave, called the Blue Corn. The margarita's were great as was the Mango chicken I had. And Larry said it was the best enchilada's he's had since arriving in New Mexico...
We plan to pull out in the morning for Raton, right on the Colorado border. We are a bit frustrated here. No Passport RV park in the area. Paid $30 a night for the past 2 nights, & a big motorhome apparently came in around 9pm the first night & knocked down the water line & just drove away. One of our neighbors saw it happen! So, we have had no park water basically since we arrived. They sure haven't offered any discounts either! Oh well, Larry says take a deep breath, relax & am I using my hormones?? LOL... See you down the road!