The curator of the San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, wants the centuries-old church declared a World Heritage Site, and she making efforts to raise its profile.
The Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper this week published a profile on the chapel, which is the oldest church in the United States, and its curator, Julianne Burton-Carvajal:
Though the chapel, located on Old Santa Fe Trail not far from the state Capitol, generally is open for a few hours a day for casual visitors to take self-guided tours, Burton-Carvajal is working to draw more locals to the history and religious significance of the site.
In October, she began what she called some “experimental” forays into programming, offering short daily lectures and tours of the church.
This week, she’s offering daily “Hour with the Curator” presentations from 3 to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Her goal, she said, is to “get the word around locally” about the church’s significance.
The Old Santa Fe Trail is a precursor to the original alignment of Route 66 to Santa Fe, before it was realigned straight westward from Santa Rosa to Albuquerque during the late 1930s.
Burton-Carvajal said Mesoamerican Indians, along with Tlaxcaltecan Indians who became Christians, probably built the chapel at the site as early as 1610, not long after Spanish conquistadors took over the city of Santa Fe. The first document that refers to the church was 1628, and it apparently was there years before that.
The church was burned during the 1680 Pueblo Revolt and not rebuilt until after the Spaniards reconquered the territory more than a decade later.
San Miguel Chapel has undergone many repairs or reconstructions over the years, including after a storm in 1872 that knocked down its bell tower.
St. Michael’s High School in Santa Fe cares for the church, and so it is not part of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe network. However, the chapel hosts Catholic Masses in Latin and English from time to time.
Burton-Carvajal said the church shouldn’t be confused with the nearby Loretto Chapel and its famed Miraculous Staircase,
San Miguel Chapel is open for visitors from 1 to 3 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday and from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday.