1120 Canyon Road
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
In the late 1930's the eastside of Santa fe did not have a church. Canyon Road was getting wider and there were about 283 families populating the alfalfa and corn fields up the valley to the mountains. On Sundays, there would be a procession of people walking down the paths to go to the Cathedral for mass, only to be relinquished to the back of the church, due to social and economic status.
This situation got very old for the folks on the eastside and they decided to build their own church. Some of residents were related to officials in the city and state government and that set the tone for their actions. The Rodriguez, Sena and Catanach families donated some land for the purpose of building their own church, a church that would reflect the indigenous people not some structure from France. The pressure was on. They started to make their requests but did not get the answers they wanted. The archdiocese in Albuquerque was headed by the archbishop R. A. Gerkin. For almost two years, the answer was no. Finally, the archbishop after being pressured by every politician in northern New Mexico, gave permission for a small church to be built and he asked for a architect. John Gaw Meem was acquired, who was the designer of the La Fonda Hotel. A contractor from Albuquerque was hired on to oversee the project to satisfy the archbishop's concerns about the project. Everything was well until another request was made.
The people in the eastside asked for more. They wanted to be the ones to build their church. So, The archbishop granted them his permission.
Another request came about from the parish, (the archbishop was getting very tired of their requests by now), they wanted a retablo that was in storage in the back of the Cathedral. The archbishop was tired by this time and he said yes, fine, go ahead. He did not realize the size of the retablo or alter screen would constitute the size of the church. The retablo was carved in 1760 by unknown Mexican artisans for Governor Francisco Marin del Valle. The stone was quarried northeast of Santa Fe and was made for the military chaped on the plaza for the governor. This retablo was 20ft by 40 ft tall. After Archbishop Lamy built the Cathedral, the retablo was put in storage, collecting dust in crates, since 1888 .
The new contractor was less then knowledgeable and insensitive to the workers, he hired them and their first task was making adobes. He questioned them about the straw. They all stopped. He did not know about adding straw to the adobes, they exclaimed, "Its like a man without a soul!" This proved he had a lot to learn from the men. With 100 men to do the work 150,000 to 180,000 adobes were made in the hot summer sun, and it only took 12 to 14 months to complete the church. The vigas were brought from the mountains in the east and peeled on site. They average weight of each viga is 2000 lbs. The corbels were made on site and all the wooden pews and confessionals were made by the boys at the diocesan Lourdes Trades School in Albuquerque. The church, on its longest side, measures 350 ft. Which make this church, the largest, single construction, adobe structure in the southwest. The walls vary from 2ft. to 9ft. thick in some areas.
Finally, the archbishop drove up the six hour drive from Albuquerque to visit the job site and was astonished at the size and magnitude of the project. He was shocked and infuriated, then he was overcome with the beauty of the church and could not keep himself from falling in love with the creation. This church is the hidden treasure of Santa Fe, not only because of its pueblo beauty, but because of the story behind its building. A story of the love and dedication of the men and women of its parish who wanted their own church to worship in.
The first mass was on June 27, 1940, 14 months after the first adobe was made. The Archbishop said the mass, celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Spanish entry into New Mexico.