Exploring the History and Architecture of Saint Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe New Mexico with Aerial Photography

Santa Fe, New Mexico is the oldest state capitol in the United States and filled with culture, history and architectural wonders. In this article we will discuss the Saint Francis Cathedral on the Santa Fe Plaza from the unique vantage of Aerial Photography.


Santa Fe, New Mexico, is a city renowned for its unique blend of cultures, artistry, and history. At the heart of this enchanting city stands the Saint Francis Cathedral, a remarkable architectural masterpiece that reflects the rich tapestry of Santa Fe’s past and present.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the history and architecture of this iconic cathedral, brought to life through a captivating aerial photograph.

St Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico Aerial Photograph by United Aerial Service LLC

A Glimpse into History

The Saint Francis Cathedral, officially known as the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, is a Roman Catholic cathedral located in downtown Santa Fe. Its construction was a labor of love initiated by Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, who oversaw the project from 1869 to its completion in 1886. However, the roots of the cathedral reach much further into history.

The site of the Saint Francis Cathedral was once home to an adobe church called La Parroquia, which was built between 1714 and 1717. Even before that, in 1626, an earlier church stood on the same grounds but met a dramatic fate during the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. The new cathedral was constructed around La Parroquia and, once completed, the older adobe church was dismantled, preserving a small chapel on the north side of the cathedral. This layering of history is a testament to the cathedral’s enduring importance.

Architectural Grandeur

What sets the Saint Francis Cathedral apart is its striking architectural style, which stands in dramatic contrast to the surrounding adobe structures of Santa Fe. Influenced by the French-born Archbishop Lamy, the cathedral was designed in the Romanesque Revival style, characterized by round arches, Corinthian columns, and truncated square towers. The large rose window at the front and the Twelve Apostles’ windows in the lateral nave were imported from Clermont-Ferrand, France, adding a touch of European elegance to this New Mexican gem.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the cathedral’s design is the original plan for towering 160-foot steeples. However, due to financial constraints, these impressive structures were never built. As a result, the north tower stands as a single row of bricks taller than the south tower, adding a unique asymmetrical charm to the cathedral’s façade.

The cathedral’s façade itself is a work of art. It was crafted from yellow limestone blocks quarried near the present site of Lamy, a testament to the craftsmanship and dedication that went into its construction. In 2005, a special addition graced the upper façade — a small, round window featuring a dove, symbolizing the Holy Spirit. This stained glass window is a replica of the translucent alabaster window designed in the 17th century by the Italian artist Bernini for St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, linking Saint Francis Cathedral to one of the most iconic religious sites in the world.

Elevated Status

The Saint Francis Cathedral is not just a historic and architectural wonder but a place of deep spiritual significance. In recognition of its enduring importance, it was officially elevated to a basilica by Pope Benedict XVI on October 4, 2005. This distinction underlines the cathedral’s role as the mother church of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and its spiritual significance to the community.

A Symbol of Santa Fe’s Cultural Tapestry

The Saint Francis Cathedral is more than just an architectural marvel; it’s a symbol of the rich cultural tapestry that Santa Fe weaves. In a city where tradition and modernity coexist harmoniously, the cathedral stands as a testament to the old and the new. The juxtaposition of this historic gem against the backdrop of a city known for its vibrant arts scene and cultural diversity is a testament to the city’s ability to embrace its heritage while moving forward.


The Saint Francis Cathedral, with its rich history, remarkable architecture, and spiritual significance, is a cornerstone of Santa Fe’s identity. It reflects the city’s enduring connection to its past while embracing the dynamic changes of the present. If you have the opportunity, visiting this iconic cathedral is a journey through time and an exploration of the cultural mosaic that is Santa Fe. It’s a place where history and spirituality come together in an architectural masterpiece that stands as a symbol of the city’s vibrant soul.

Choose United Aerial Service For Your New Mexico Aerial Photography

United Aerial Service is the unrivaled choice for aerial photography in New Mexico, setting the bar high with its exceptional services. With a commitment to precision and a deep understanding of the local landscape, their team captures breathtaking aerial photographs that showcase the beauty and uniqueness of New Mexico like no other. Their state-of-the-art technology, skilled pilots, and artistic vision come together to deliver striking images that tell compelling stories. Whether it’s capturing the intricate details of Santa Fe’s historic architecture, the sweeping landscapes of the Land of Enchantment, or any other aerial photography needs, United Aerial Service consistently exceeds expectations, making them the top choice for those seeking stunning imagery from above.

Joaquin Roibal with United Aerial Service LLC
Call/Text: 505–546–9660

United Aerial Service LLC for your New Mexico Aerial Photography Services



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