9. Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe


Up: Contents Previous: 8. The Rosario Chapel Next: 10. Church of Our Lady of Light — The Castrense


[page 117]

This church is so near the railroad depots in Santa Fé and so conspicuous from the line of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, that it is one of the first objects that attracts the attention of the tourist. It is now surrounded by fine trees which add to its attractiveness.

The history of this church is not very clear. Being, for many years, without a priest specially in charge, there was no official to keep the records, and no ancient mention of its existence has yet been found in the archives or other Spanish documents.

We should certainly accord respect to any statements coming from Father Defouri, who was the pastor of the church at the time when he wrote a book entitled,Historical Sketches of the Catholic Church in New Mexico, in 1887. In this volume, when writing of the Pueblo Revolution of 1680 and of the destruction of the churches, he says: “Guadalupe being somewhat out of town fared better for a while, but was sacked the following year.” The same general statement is repeated in another part of his work. Colonel Twitchell, in hisLeading Facts of New Mexican History, says, “From the best information obtainable this building was erected


[page 118]

about the year 1640. According to tradition the date of its erection is carved upon one of the old beams which surmount the choir gallery, but are now covered with the plaster cornice.”

On the other hand, the map of Santa Fé made by Joseph de Urrutia in 1768, while covering the location of the church, does not show any church there at that date. Neither do the archives which contain inventories of property belonging to the different churches in the province, down even to a later date, make any mention of such a church as then existing. The weight of Father. Defouriapos;s statement as to events in 1680 is somewhat impaired by his mention of the Castrense in the same connection, and again in connection with the restoration of San Miguel in 1710, when in fact that church was not built until about 1758, by Governor Del Valle.

The date of the erection of the Guadalupe church is therefore still an open question, soon to be settled, we may hope, by the discovery of some authoritative record.

At the time of the arrival of the railroad, in 1880, and for very many years before, this church was a plain adobe structure, open for public religious services but once in each year, on December 12th, which is the festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The influx of English-speaking Roman Catholics almost immediately after the opening of direct railroad communication with the East and the discovery of mineral wealth at Cerrillos, was so large that it became necessary to make some provision for their accom-modation,


[page 119]

and Rev. James H. Defouri was put in Charge of the Guadalupe church with directions to renovate it for the special use of an English-speaking congregation. Father Defouri was a man of large experience and much practical ability, and succeeded in a short time in putting the old building in excellent condition for use and in organizing a large congregation. This was subsequently erected into a separate parish, thus dividing the city between the cathedral and the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The illustration which accompanys this chapter shows the church as it was before any modernizing changes were made. Since then there have naturally been some alterations in the arrangement of pictures and other ornaments, although the most conspicuous features remain unchanged. The following description, written by the author in 1883, embodies a full list of the pictures and other works of art which make this church a special object of interest; including some which can now only be seen by personal application to the pastor or sacristan:

The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is situated on the south side of the river, not very far from the railroad depot. It is massively built of adobe, cruciform in shape, and, until 1882, was surmounted by a tower containing several bells made of native New Mexican copper.

For a number of years prior to 1882 this church was very little used, except on the Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12th); but was a favorite spot for the antiquarian and the tourist, as it


[page 120]

CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE, SANTA Fé, 1880


[page 121]

was full of curious and interesting paintings and other articles, some of which were of special value. But a short time after the arrival of the railroad, in 1880, and the influx of new population which almost immediately followed, the innovating spirit of the times laid its hand on this venerable edifice, and regarding present utility as more important than antique interest, cut windows through the massive walls, which bring a mid-day glare in place of the old “dim, religious light”; replaced the flat, earthen roof With a high peaked one of shingles; built a wooden spire of the strictest New England meeting-house pattern in the place of the venerable tower, and filled the body of the church with rows of wooden pews, covering the ancient adobe floor which had been pressed by the knees of the faithful devoutly bent in prayer for a century and a half of time. It is now used by the English-speaking Roman Catholics.

The first thing which strikes the visitor is the great thickness of the massive walls; and his attention is next attracted by the long rows of vigas, round and smooth, which support the roof. Each viga is itself supported by a timber at each end, which, in the style universal in all the older churches in the Territory, are all elaborately carved. These features fortunately could not be removed by the devastating hand of innovation, and so remain as enduring witnesses to the devotion, liberality, and skill of those who erected this edifice in honor of the great Patroness of the Mexican race.


[page 122]

The church contains some modern images of more than ordinary excellence, but we pass them by in order to draw attention to the paintings, etc., which give to it its special interest and importance.

Principal among these is the great painting behind the altar, which shows considerable artistic skill besides being entirely appropriate to its position in this particular church, dedicated to Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. This altar-piece is a very large picture, or rather group of pictures, about fourteen feet high by ten feet wide. It is composed of six paintings in all, two on each side, one in the center, and one over the center. The central picture is the usual one of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which, of course, is unchangeable, as all are copies of the original which appeared on the tilma of the shepherd. Around this are four pictures representing four scenes in the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The first scene is on the right hand above, representing the Virgin appearing to the shepherd, Juan Diego, and the latter hastening to obey her command. Opposite to this is the second scene, when the shepherd returns after being repulsed by the Bishop of Mexico — three angels appearing above him. Below this, being the lower left hand picture, is represented the third scene, when Diego brings the roses in his tilma at the command of the Virgin; and opposite this, the fourth and last scene, where on opening the tilma before the Bishop, the miraculous painting of Our Lady appears. Above the whole is a representation


[page 123]

of the three persons of the Trinity, the Son being distinguished by the nail-marks in his hands.

The most interesting and curious single picture in this church is one on a large copper-plate, 28x18 inches, painted by Sebastian Salcedo in 1779. The frame is a unique production of art, having silver corners and a silver ornament on each of the four sides. The painting itself is made up of a number of other smaller pictures, the central one being “Our Lady of Guadalupe,” surrounded by angels and patriarchs presenting crowns. Above her are seven different scenes in the history of her appearance to Diego; four of them similar to those in the great altar-picture, and three of other scenes. Below, on the left, is a portrait of Pope Benedict XIV, and on the right, an emblematic picture of the Mexican Empire, personified as a female. This picture is over the entrance to the sacristy.

There are five paintings on canvas, all uniform in size, which, before the alterations to the church, were upon its walls, and have since been removed to the sacristy, thus unfortunately depriving the church of its great attraction. These are all of considerable antiquity, and several of them are very curious and interesting because they reproduce the costumes of the age in which they were painted. They are as follows:

1. Madonna and Child. In this the dress of the Virgin is in the curious style of the seventeenth century in Spain, reminding one in exaggerated form of the hoop skirts of more recent days.


[page 124]

2. The Holy Family. This represents the Virgin and St. Joseph visiting St. Elizabeth; the Infant Saviour and John the Baptist complete the picture.

3. Our Lady of Guadalupe. An old copy of the celebrated Mexican picture.

4. Madonna and Child. The peculiarity of this is the curious flowered dress of the Virgin.

5. The Virgin Mary, alone. With clasped hands.

In the gallery is a large and curious painting, in the Mexican style, of a saint, probably St. Francis. The figure occupies all the center of the canvas; behind it is a large cross, and over the head are two angels holding crowns. In the lower left hand corner is another angel presenting a crown, and on the right side, opposite, a table with a skull upon it. The picture is far from artistic, and has no pretensions to beauty; but it is curious and interesting, and a type of many paintings executed in the Territory or in northern Mexico.

The church contains two antique statuettes, which well exemplify the high art of Spain, and the crude American style of a century or two ago. The first is one of the finest specimens of wood carving, combined with enamel work, that is to be found in the country. But four others of this style are known in the Territory. The one in question represents the Virgin, standing in the crescent of the new moon, surrounded by clouds, a beautiful cherub's face being directly beneath the figure. The robes are of exquisite workmanship, representing embroidery, and the coloring is in rich red and purple, contrasted


[page 125]

with black and gold. The statue is about fifteen inches high, and will well repay examination. The other statue is about eighteen inches high, made of wood and plaster, and represents St. Joseph. Scarcely could there be a stronger artistic contrast than between these two specimens!

This church also contains some rich embroideries, a part of which were originally clerical vestments, and a portion altar coverings.

The visitor should also be sure to see a curious cross of iron, with brass ornaments at the top and ends of the cross piece, and some old pictorial printed sheets, printed in red and black.

Up: Contents Previous: 8. The Rosario Chapel Next: 10. Church of Our Lady of Light — The Castrense




© Arizona Board of Regents