San Miguel Chapel is 3 blks. s. of The Plaza at 401 Old Santa Fe Tr. (at E. De Vargas St.). A feeling of timelessness emanates from this simple mission church, built by Tlaxcala Indians under the direction of Franciscan padres (priests). Constructed around 1610, it is thought to be the nation's oldest active church. Records of its early history were burned during the Pueblo Indian Rebellion of 1680, but the thick, sturdy adobe walls remained unscathed; stone buttresses were subsequently added to strengthen the walls and bell tower.
The sanctuary has wooden pews and massive timber roof beams (vigas). The hand-carved wooden reredos (altar screen) dates from 1798. Paintings of saints and Christ the Nazarene surround a gilded and painted wooden statue of St. Michael the Archangel, brought from Mexico in the early 18th century. In the rear of the church is a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The 780-pound San Jose Bell that once hung in the bell tower now is displayed in the gift shop, and visitors are welcome to ring it; according to legend, those who do are destined to return to Santa Fe.