Today is the Catholic feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of Santa Fe and animals. It’s a tradition for churches throughout New Mexico to bless the animals on this feast day. St. Francis became the patron saint of Santa Fe in 1717. The mission of San Francisco in California began in 1765, fifty-nine years after Santa Fe. St. Francis Drive in Santa Fe is a reminder of the early influence of the revered saint. The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is referred to as the heart of Santa Fe. There’s even a sculpture of St. Francis in front of City Hall at Lincoln and Marcy streets.
The First Order of St. Francis of Assisi
When San Francisco de Asís became the patron saint of Santa Fe the Franciscans followed. Known as the First Order of St. Francis, these priests played an integral role shaping New Mexico history. From the early 1600s through 2000 they had a presence in Santa Fe and the surrounding region. In addition to Oñate’s explorations, members of the Franciscan order traveled on expeditions with Columbus, Cabeza de Vaca, Cortés, and Narváez. They were instrumental in establishing Catholic missions throughout South America, Mexico, and the southwestern United States.
Fray Angelico Chavez
Perhaps the best-known Franciscan priest to have an impact on New Mexico history was Fray Angélico Chávez. Considered the preeminent Hispanic writer and historian of New Mexico, he was born April 10, 1910, in Wagon Mound, N.M. The humble priest wrote 22 books, including five books of poetry, five belles-lettres, a novel titled Our Lady of Toledo, nine histories, and two biographies. Origins of New Mexico Families by Chavez has become the bible for genealogists researching the early Spanish settlements. The Fray Angélico Chávez History Library at the Palace of the Governors is named in his honor. Fray Angelico Chavez died in 1996.