New Mexico

Construction never finished on historic Santa Fe landmark

SANTA FE, NM (KRQE) - A historic New Mexico landmark was supposed to look completely different, but pieces of the design were left off during construction and never added.

To the people of Santa Fe, St. Francis Cathedral is more than just a place of worship.

“This church has always been called the corazón de Santa Fe, the heart of Santa Fe,” said docent Richard Meier.

Before the landmark was built in the mid-1800s the chapel was just an adobe building.

Unless you’re really looking for it, you wouldn’t notice that it never quite got finished.

“I didn’t notice it at first. I think the average tourist wouldn’t miss it at all and still come in an appreciate it, it’s still beautiful,” said Grimsley, a tourist from California.

“I believe it is the bell towers that are there but just look a little unfinished,” said resident Sara Cunningham.

Construction of the cathedral started in 1869 and continued until 1887. In the original design you can see two spires on top of the bell towers.

“The reason why those are not there is because Archbishop Lamy frankly ran out of money at that point,” Meier said.

Through the years there have been minor changes and additions to the cathedral, but so far there haven’t been any discussions about adding the missing elements.

“Modern day architects will tell you that the weight of those if they would have been there would have caused the whole church to collapse,” Meier said.

The missing spires is a quirk that some find endearing.

“I actually think it’s kind of neat that it is missing that. It makes it a little bit different and unique for sure,” Grimsley said.

Santa Fe residents believe the empty space on the bell towers is a true display of the city’s culture.

“We do things different in an odd manner anyway. It’s “the cathedral different.” I love the cathedral,” Cunningham said.

The cathedral is highest building in Santa Fe, the cathedral was elevated to a Basilica in 2005.


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