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Basilica History

  • San Albino is one of the oldest missions in the Mesilla Valley.

  • It was established by order of the Mexican government in 1851.

  • In 1906, the present building was constructed on the foundation of the original adobe church.

  • The bells of San Albino date to the early 1870s.

(Click on the headers below to read corresponding entries and view related images.)


Establishment of La Mesilla & San Albino

The Mexican-American War had just ended and land that belonged to Mexico would soon become part of the United States. A group of refugees from present day northern New Mexico, Doña Ana County, and villages south of El Paso del Norte (now El Paso/Juarez) banded together under the direction of Cura Ramón Ortíz.

The priest was appointed by the government of Mexico to be Commissioner of Emigration to assist Mexican citizens who wanted to resettle in Mexican territory. It was this band of settlers that arrived west of the Rio Bravo Grande del Norte to establish La Mesilla around 1850.

The settlers soon established a central plaza which included a Catholic church on the south side of the plaza. Constructed of mud and logs, this primitive structure was named San Albino.

Padre Ortiz

Padre Ramón Ortíz
San Albino's Establishing Priest

Early Church Hierarchy of San Albino

The people of La Mesilla had always been under the leadership of the bishop in Durango, Mexico, however, a papal decree created the Vicariate Apostolic of New Mexico in 1850.

San Albino got its first permanent pastor, Padre Bernardino Hinojos, in 1852.

The Gadsden Purchase, 1853-4, added portions of present-day southern Arizona and New Mexico including La Mesilla. Mesilla was transferred to the New Mexico diocese. The shepherd of this new diocese was a Frenchman, Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy.

By 1856, the primitive [mud and logs] structure [on the south side of the plaza] was replaced on the north side of the plaza by a traditional Mexican church, a fortress style providing protection from raids.

San Albino Construction 1855-57

Construction of San Albino on current site 1855-1857

San Albino's New French-European Face

Due to the French-European influence, the adobe structure with which the Mexican settlers were familiar was replaced in 1855-1857 with French architecture.

In 1872, San Albino parish became part of the Vicariate Apostolic of Arizona, under Frenchman, Rev. Jean B. Salpointe.

San Albino in 1880's

Photograph of San Albino in the 1880's

The Bells of San Albino

It was during this time, in 1876, that the first bell for the church was commissioned. This small copper bell is believed to have been cast at the old rectory on Calle Picacho.

Two bells named Sagrado Corazon de Jesus and Maria Albina were cast in 1886 and hung at San Albino. In 1887, the final, and largest of the San Albino bells, Campana Grande, rang out across the Mesilla Valley.

In keeping with Catholic tradition the bells, including Sagrado Corazon de Jesus were christened and given godparents to care for them. Today, the bells are still rung to wake parishioners and call them to Mass.

San Albino Compana Bell

Basilica of San Albino's "Compana" Bell

Current Romanesque Style Church Dedicated 1908

In [April] 1908, the present-day Romanesque church was dedicated. It stands on the same site that the original church occupied on the north end of the plaza.

San Albino Dedication April 1908

San Albino Dedication, April 12, 1908 - Looking North across La Mesilla Plaza

Crowd Leaving 1908 Dedication of the New San Albino Church

People departing following the April 12, 1908 dedication. This is the Basilica structure in use today.

San Albino Dedication April 1908

San Albino Dedication, April 12, 1908 - Following Dedication Mass

Parish of San Albino, More Diocese Assignments

In 1916 San Albino came under the jurisdiction of the bishop of El Paso, Texas.

Since 1982, San Albino has been part of the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Las Cruces, under the direction of Bishop Ricardo Ramirez.

Diocese of Las Cruces Coat of ArmsSpacerBishop Ramirez

Diocese of Las CrucesSpacerBishop Emeritus Ricardo Ramirez
SpacerCoat of ArmsSpacerFirst Bishop of Las Cruces

San Albino Designated a Basilica

In 2008, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in the Vatican granted minor basilica status to San Albino. Dedication of San Albino as a basilica took place on November 1, 2008. This date is the Feast of All Saints.

Basilica Dedication Invitation






(The brief history above contains excerpts from the 150th Anniversary leaflet and History of San Albino on the Plaza by Mary D. Taylor.)


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Basilica of San Albino
2070 Calle de Santiago | PO Box 26
Mesilla, NM 88046-0026
Phone: 575-526-9349 |  Fax: 575-647-1619