Santa Fe, New Mexico: The Loretto Chapel
The story of the Loretto Chapel:
In 1873 a group of nuns from the Sisters of Loretto decided to build a chapel in Santa Fe. The local Bishop wanted it to be patterned after the famous Saint-Chapelle in Paris. During construction the builders realized that although they had a choir loft there was no stairway leading to it. Several builders were consulted about building the stairway but they all said that the stairs would take up too much room in the chapel. They all recommended that a ladder be used in place of a staircase.
The sisters then started a Novena to Saint Joseph and from that act of faith came a true miracle. On the 9th day of the Novena an elderly carpenter showed up at the building and offered his services at no charge. He worked using only a hammer, saw and T-square.
The stairway he built is an engineering marvel. It is a circular stairway consisting of 33 steps and makes two complete 360-degree turns up to the choir loft. It has no central means of support and is built with only wooden pegs–no nails or glue. Architecturally, it should not have lasted a day, but was in continuous use for over 85 years and still exists today.
More about the stairway and the mysterious carpenter:
The man was never seen again and when the sisters checked at the local lumber yard, they were surprised to learn that he had not made any purchases there. Moreover, the wood is not native to New Mexico at all. Soon word spread that is was Saint Joseph himself that built the stairway and wood was from the Holy Land.
It was featured in the TV movie “The Staircase” and the TV show “Unsolved Mysteries”. Check out our bookstore for “The Little Church Mouse of the Loretto Chapel”, a delightful children’s book.
The Sisters eventually sold the chapel and it is now open to the public.
The chapel is often used as a site for weddings (although Catholic weddings cannot be held here, since it was de-consecrated when the Sisters sold it).
Traveling to the Loreto Chapel in Santa Fe:
The chapel is easy to find, pretty much in the center of town and close to the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Address: 207 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501
GPS coordinates: 35° 41′ 7.3932” N, 105° 56′ 15.4932” W
Tel: +1 (505) 982-0092
e-mail: use the contact form on their website.
Click here for a link to the official website of the Loretto Chapel
Photo of the staircase by blogger Teresa Bergen