The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Santa Fe, established in 1777, is the oldest still standing shrine built in honor of our Lady of Guadalupe in the United States. It is an enduring landmark, commemorating the apparitions of Mary to the Aztec peasant Juan Diego at Tepeyac, Mexico between December 9 and 12 in 1531. As recorded then by the court of Bishop Fray Juan de' Zumiarraga of Mexico City, Juan Diego reported to the Bishop that he had seen a young girl, whom he presumed to be the Virgin Mary, while walking on the hill of Tepeyac, outside Mexico City and she had asked him to petition the Bishop for the construction of a church for worship of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bishop sent Juan Diego away, asking him for proof of this apparition of the Virgin Mary. The following day, Juan Diego returned to the Bishop and said, " She sent me to the top of the little hill of Tepeyac where I had seen her before, to cut some rose flowers there ... and she told me that I should give them to you from her and in that way I would prove it. Here they are, please receive them." Juan Diego then opened his tilma (peasant cloak) and the roses spilled out. revealing a perfect, miraculous image of the Virgin on the fabric. After viewing this image, Bishop Zumiarraga approved the construction of The Church of The Virgin of Guadalupe at Tepeyac. It is reported that wihin 30 years, almost the entire Aztec nation converted to Christianity. The church at Tepeyac has been replaced by the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the most visited Marian shrine in the world. The original Juan Diego tilma image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is on display in the Basilica today and has decayed little over the past 483 years, defying scientific explanations. Miraculous healings of Christian pilgrims visiting the Cathedral Basilica have been reported.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Santa Fe has its own unique features. The Shrine consists of the historical chapel - the Sanctuario de Guadalupe, a new larger Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe to accommodate the burgeoning parish, the El Cerro de Tepeyac - a walking path featuring six tile mosaics by the artist Arlene Cisneros Sena, illustrating the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego and the newest addition, a 12 foot statue of our Lady of Guadalupe which stands in front of the Sanctuario de Guadalupe, greeting visitors. There is also a prayer station at the statue of Saint Bernadette. A rose garden with flowers from the Holy Lands in the Middle East embellishes the entrance to the Sanctuario.
The original Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a small adobe structure, was built in 1777 on the banks of the Santa Fe River near the end of the Camino Real. The church was constructed on a Latin cross floor plan, with thick 3 foot adobe walls, a flat roof supported by pine vigas, a dirt packed floor and a 3 tiered bell tower, Owing to disrepair the Church was closed in 1826 by Vicar Fernandez San Vicente of the Diocese of Durango, Mexico and remained closed until 1881 when Bishop Lamy of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe appointed Father De Fauri from Denver as pastor with the charge of raising the funds to reopen Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. Father De Fauri was able to make much needed repairs. A new cupola was added to replace the partially collapsed roof. A 575 pound bell was installed in an orange colored spire which replaced the old bell tower and mock Gothic windows were placed in the walls. The parish flourished until 1922 when a fire razed the church's roof , collapsed the spire and damaged the painted frescoes, The walls and altar survived. Restoration this time was made in the style of a California Mission with a new pitched roof , a bell tower and a wooden floor. Owing to further deterioration of the adobe walls, the church was closed in 1961 and the new and larger Our Lady of Guadalupe Church was opened. In 1973 the Sanctuario was leased to the Guadalupe Historical Society, which converted it into a museum and eventually raised the revenue to restore the adobe walls and interior. In 2006 the Archdiocese of Santa Fe transferred the Sanctuario back to the Our Lady of Guadalupe parish. Daily morning masses, Saturday evening mass and marriages are now performed in the Sanctuario.
The outstanding artistic feature of the Sanctuario is the reredos (altar screen) with a replica of Our lady of Guadalupe painted in 1783 by Jose de Alzibar in Mexico City and carted in sections by ox train up the Camino Real to Santa Fe where it was stitched back together. The reredos also contains images of Our Lady of Guadalupe's apparitions to Juan Diego. The 12 foot statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe which stands in front of the Sanctuario was sculpted by the Mexican artist Georgina Farias and was trucked from Mexico to Santa Fe in 2008. The statue is surrounded by offerings of roses on a platform of memorial bricks stenciled with the names of parishioners. Like the Sanctuario it is a site of devotional prayers, requesting the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
When Archbishop Michael Sheehan dedicated the Statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12, 2008 he stated that " If the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis is the heart of Santa Fe then the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the soul of Santa Fe". This would seem evident from the numerous and varied images of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the capitol city of New Mexico. She has been painted on storefronts, garage doors, automobiles - almost everywhere you walk in Santa Fe you will see er image. The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the center-piece of this devotion. It is a place that beckons pilgrims. Here Mary is always waiting for our prayers, wanting to provide the same maternal affection and care to all of mankind that she bestowed on Her Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.
To view photos and a video of the dedication of the Statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe click on