Colonists from Mexico in the 17th and 18th centuries brought devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe with them. The first church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a tiny adobe structure on the banks of the Santa Fe River was built as a shrine to Our Lady of the New World. Information fixes the date as 1777. At the time of its construction, the little adobe church was a shrine only, not a parish.
In 1817, Don Juan Butista Ladron del Niño de Guevara made a visitation to Santa Fe. Records show that the Guadalupe Chapel was used to help serve the needs of the (Cathedral) parish on occasion. At the time of the visit, the church was not in good repair. Nine years later, in 1826, when Vicar Fernandez San Vicente, the Vicar-General of the Diocese of Durango, visited Santa Fe, he inspected the church and found it to be in such a bad state of repair that it was not considered fit for use as a house of God.
On July 20, 1881, Father Defouri was appointed pastor of the English-speaking people in Santa Fe. Soon after his arrival, Archbishop Lamy gave him the care of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Father Defouri wrote of this assignment:
“On the 15th of July 1881, the Most Rev. J.B. Lamy, Archbishop of Santa Fe wrote to me in Denver, where I was for a year: “If you are free and can come to Santa Fe, you will do me a favor. I appoint you the successor of Father Truchard. You will be Vicar General for the English of the Diocese, my private Secretary, and you will have charge of the few English-speaking people of Santa Fe, saying mass and preaching for them on Sundays.” He accepted the offer and on the first of August, gave up his assignment in Denver and came here. Fr. DeFouri at once took charge of his office, and lodging at the Archbishop’s residence.
“Soon after my arrival, his Grace told me he would give the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the American congregation. This Church had been closed for years, mass being said in it only a few times every year. We commenced speaking of the affair and on the first Sunday in October we held the first formal business meeting in the office of D. Catanach and Co., at the of corner Shelby and Water Streets. A subscription list was opened at once, with three hundred dollars being subscribed. Collectors were appointed at the same meeting and the work was begun.”
As pastor, Father Defouri made needed repairs. A new cupola was added to replace the old roof which had given out and this somewhat changed the original appearance of the church. He installed a bell weighing 575 pounds, which was blessed by the Very Rev. P. Eguillion, Vicar General, in the name of Our Lady of Guadalupe, at ceremonies on March 23, 1884. Another bell was blessed by the Most Rev. Archbishop Placidus L. Chappelle in 1896. It was dedicated in honor of the Holy Family.
Our Lady of Guadalupe continued to serve as a parish until 1918, when, once again, it was made an auxiliary to the Cathedral parish. In 1931, Our Lady of Guadalupe returned to full-fledged parish status. Father H. P. M. LeGuillou was appointed pastor in 1931 and served a memorable tenure.
The parish had long before outgrown the Sanctuario. In 1958, a campaign was started to raise the necessary funds to build a new church, and in 1960, Archbishop Edwin V. Byrne gave his approval for the building. Ground was broken in 1961, and on December 17, 1961, the dream of completion was realized with dedication ceremonies.
The Santuario de Guadalupe in Santa Fe, built shortly after 1776, is an enduring landmark commemorating the strong presence of our Lady of Guadalupe. This is the oldest, still-standing shrine built in honor of Our Lady in the United States. However, there are no reliable documents citing the precise construction date. A letter from the then Bishop of Durango, Mexico, dated October 14, 1775, in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe archives, read that “permission (licensia) was being granted to several chapels including the Guadalupe of Santa Fe”. “The nature of the permission is unclear, but it would appear to be for performing religious duties since it was built prior to the date of the letter”. The Santuario de Guadalupe was constructed adjacent to the Santa Fe River and near the end of El Camino Real (Royal Highway), a colonial trade route from Mexico City via Chihuahua to Santa Fe. The Church originally known as Guadalupe Church, was constructed on a Latin cross floor plan, with thick adobe walls, a flat roof supported by vigas, a packed dirt floor and a three-tiered bell tower. Between 1881 and 1884 the parish was drastically altered. The flat roof was replaced with a pitched one, the bell tower was replaced with an orange colored spire and mock-Gothic windows placed into the walls. June 27, 1922 a fire razed the roof, the spire was near collapse and destroyed the painted frescoes. The adobe walls and altar survived. The restoration was made in a California mission style, a bell tower was erected and the building received new wooden flooring.
The Santuario de Guadalupe served as an active parish in Santa Fe until December 1961, at which time it was closed for all religious services. A new Our Lady of Guadalupe Church Building was dedicated on December 17, 1961. From 1961 to 1975, the Santuario was used for various secular activities. During this time, some parishioners wanted it torn down, others made simple repairs with good intentions. The Santuario’s structure worsened and the interior was vandalized.
In 1973, the then Archbishop Robert F. Sanchez launched an official effort to raise the necessary funds to restore the mission. It was then that the Archdiocese “deeded” the building to newly formed non-profit, non-sectarian Guadalupe Historic Foundation to help seek grants to restore the church and administer its use. The foundation was successful in becoming beneficiaries of several financial grants, including ones from the New Mexico Bicentennial Commission, the City of Santa Fe, HUD, New Mexico Arts Commission, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and many private donors. The project included evaluating the condition of the Santuario and the study of its restoration to a state as near as possible to the original design. The Guadalupe Historic Foundation deeded the Santuario back to the Santa Fe Archdiocese and continued to lease the building. The lease expired in January 2006, at which time Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish assumed administrative, restoration and operational duties.
Saturday, July 30, 2005, Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan announced the transfer of the Santuario de Guadalupe from The Guadalupe Historic Foundation to Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish upon termination of their lease. Archbishop Sheehan and the Rev. Tien-Tri Nguyen, Pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, indicated that the planned and future use of the Santuario include religious and cultural events such as lectures and concerts. The Santuario now holds weekday 6:30 AM Mass, 12:00 noon Sunday Mass, funerals, weddings and so on. Saturday, August 5, 2006. Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan returned to re-dedicate the Santuario de Guadalupe. Once again the Santuario was officially declared and dedicated as a worship place, the church.
“Rediscover the Soul of Santa Fe”, was the theme chosen by Fr. Tien-Tri Nguyen to describe the return of the Santuario de Guadalupe to Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Santa Fe. How fitting this theme is to describe this faith community as the essence of Santa Fe. The Santuario served not only the faithful from the City of Santa Fe, but welcomed the travelers who ventured into the city, being so close to the railroad station. Our Lady of Guadalupe Church is again greeting those who have chosen Santa Fe as their home. The Parish Community is diverse, with numerous life-long parishioners, many newcomers, visitors and a large predominately Spanish speaking-immigrant community. Most importantly, each and every individual, regardless of age or birthplace feels welcome at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and the Santuario de Guadalupe.
In addition to the Santuario being returned to Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, the Parishioners also undertook the remodeling the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. The renovation was extensive, with financial assistance accompished through a “pledge drive” and other fund-raising events in the Parish. It is important that the history of either Church is not lost. There was an extensive effort to bring the many who had received any of the Sacraments at either Church or attended school at Our Lady of Guadalupe to share in the rediscovery. The Parish still seeks photos and stories from individuals to document the history of both Churches and the School.