The cathedral was designed and engineered by the Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, a French-born archbishop. The architecture was influenced by the Romanesque Revival style, which stood in stark contrast to the earlier adobe structures in the area. The cathedrals characteristics include round arches divided by curtailed square towers and Corinthian columns.
Further, the cathedral features large rose windows in the front, as well as the lateral nave windows representing the Twelve Apostles. The cathedral was built using yellow limestone bricks obtained from quarries near Lamy, New Mexico.
In 2005, the cathedral added a small, round window with a dove to the upper facade. The dove serves to represent the Holy Spirit in the Catholic tradition. The same year, Pope Benedict XVI elevated the status of the cathedral to a basilica.