It’s not something most people associate with the Catholic faith, but sitting at the top of the arch over the entrance of Santa Fe’s cathedral are the Hebrew letters that designate the name of God, or YHWH (Yahweh).
This is not news. Anyone who has read any history about the cathedral and the city undoubtedly has come across a reference to the letters in the triangle. Many of the histories have said the design was put there in thanks to the Jewish merchants who helped fund the cathedral’s construction.
But some additional reflection on that decoration can be found in the book
“American Ghost” by Hannah Nordhaus. A great-great-granddaughter of Julia Staab, whose ghost is said to haunt La Posada in Santa Fe, Nordhaus produced the book in exploring her family history and wondering why Julia might have been unhappy enough to haunt her former home.
Nordhaus noted that the story she had always heard was that Julia’s husband, Abraham Staab, gave a large sum of money to Archbishop Lamy for construction in return for having the letters chiseled over the doorway. But then Nordhaus ran across a history wrote by Floyd Fierman, a rabbi and historian from El Paso, that insisted no evidence existed to support that tale. He also said that such inscriptions were not at unusual in churches and cathedrals in Europe.
And, indeed, a Google search unearthed at least a few examples of similar inscriptions on churches on that continent.
So, the true story? Nordhaus doesn’t draw a conclusion in her book.