What is thought to be the oldest church in the continental United States, San Miguel Chapel, is located in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Oral history suggests that it was built around 1610, and the earliest documentation of the chapel’s existence was in 1628, making it about 400 years old.
The chapel, an adobe building, is thought to have been built by Tlaxcalan Indians who came from old Mexico to New Mexico in 1598. It has undergone multiple repairs throughout the last couple of hundred years: in 1640, the chapel was partly destroyed when a provincial governor feuded with church authorities; It was damaged again during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and it was rebuilt in 1710; Then it was rebuilt again in 1887, after its top two stories fell in 1872. If you’re interested, you can read more about its history here.
Because this structure was in existence before the United States came to be, it’s quite an interesting place to see. To enter the chapel, you’ll first go through a gift shop where you’ll pay a $1 fee.
Inside the chapel, one of the first things noticeable is the San Jose Bell, a 780-pound bell that was installed in a tower in around 1856.
The rest of the chapel is pretty simple with several wooden pews.
Up at the front, you can see a portion of the original wall plastering, and at the altar, you can see some of the original floor of the church through a rectangular piece of glass/plastic.
Masses are still held at this church on weekdays at 2 p.m. and on Sundays at 5 p.m.
San Miguel Chapel is part of the Barrio De Analco Historic District, which is a National Historic Landmark.
While there are disputes about whether or not this is the oldest church in the continental U.S., it’s well worth the $1 admission to experience this historic building that’s hundreds of years old.
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