The Saint Francis Cathedral is a prominent landmark of downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico. The first chapel was built on the site in 1718, and the building has evolved several times since.
The most striking feature of the cathedral is its French gothic architecture in the middle of an adobe town. The current structure was built in 1869, commissioned by bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, a French bishop, sent here by the Pope. The architecture of the cathedral seems to be modelled after Notre-dame de Paris in Paris, or after the model used for that cathedral.
The cathedral is now mostly out of service, although some small groups use it on Sunday mornings. Despite this, the cathedral still houses the oldest Madonna statue in the United States. It remains mainly a tourist attraction, which is increased by its stragic location only one block from the Plaza, right across the street from the La Fonda Hotel. Alongside the cathedral is a quiet cemetary, with tall trees providing shade. Across the street are several galleries, and the back of the cathedral leads away from the plaza.
The cathedral is named for Saint Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order, who also appears other places throughout the city. Statues of Saint Francis usually depict him holding birds, or with birds perched on his arms. This symbolizes Saint Francis' love and care for animals, which is noted in several biographies of him. (Source: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06221a.htm)