Jean-Baptiste Lamy (October 11, 1814 - February 13, 1888), was a French Roman Catholic clergyman and the first Archbishop of Santa Fe (New Mexico), United States. American writer Willa Cather's novel Death Comes for the Archbishop is based on his life and career.
Early life and career
Ordination as a priest
Lamy was born in Lempdes, France
in the Auvergne
region of France
. He completed his classical studies
in the preparatory seminary
coursework in the grand seminary (major seminary) of Montferrand
, where he was ordained
a priest in December 1838.
Elevation to Bishop
After a few months as an assistant priest in his native diocese
, in 1839 Lamy asked for and obtained permission to answer the call for missionaries
of Bishop John Baptist Purcell
, of Cincinnati, Ohio
. As a missionary in North America
, Lamy labored in several missions of Ohio
, when, to his surprise, he was notified of his appointment as bishop of the recently created Vicariate
of New Mexico
on July 23
. After an arduous journey due to transportation and conditions of the period, Lamy reached Santa Fe
in the summer of 1851.
Lamy’s early efforts as Bishop were directed to reforming the New Mexico church, the building of more churches
in the territory, the creation of new parishes
and the establishment of schools
. He ended the marriage of priests, and suppressed religious brotherhood societies
within individual communities.
On February 12, 1875, the Diocese of Santa Fe was elevated to an Archdiocese with Bishop Lamy as its first Archbishop.
Lamy was responsible for the construction of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi (commonly known as St. Francis Cathedral) and Loretto Chapel. Both buildings were built in the style of the Romanesque churches of France familiar to Lamy.
Lamy died of pneumonia in 1888 and is buried under the sanctuary floor of the Basilica. A bronze statue, dedicated in 1925, stands in his memory outside the front entrance of the Basilica and the town of Lamy, New Mexico was named after him.
Lamy was succeeded as Archbishop of Santa Fe by Jean-Baptiste Salpointe, also from Auvergne, France.
Salpointe, Jean Baptiste, Soldiers of the Cross; Notes on the Ecclesiastical History of New-Mexico, Arizona and Colorado
, Documentary Publications, Salisbury, N.C. 1977 (originally published 1898).