National Register of Historic Places in Santa Fe County
A reredos is an ornamental screen covering the wall at the back of an altar. This reredos, carved from tightly compressed volcanic stone, is the only one of its kind from the Spanish period in the United States. It is over eighteen feet wide and twenty-five feet tall.
In 1760, the Spanish Governor, Francisco Antonio Marin del Valle, had a military chapel, La Castrense, built on the Santa Fe Plaza. The governor, a devout and wealthy man, financed the construction of the building and donated this stone reredos carved by masons from Zacatecas, Mexico. The figures and decorative detail were painted with water soluble colors, but today the colors are so faded that it is impossible to tell what it looked like when the paint was fresh.
La Castrense was abandoned in 1859 and the reredos was moved to the Parroquia, which stood on the site of the present St. Francis Cathedral. With the completion of the new Cathedral in 1894, the reredos was hidden from the common view in a small room behind the altar.
In 1940, when the Cristo Rey parish church was constructed, the reredos was taken from its hiding place and installed in the new church.
Source: Adapted from the NRHP nomination submitted in 1967.