Loretto Chapel and the Mystery Within

A view of Santa Fe, New Mexico — where the Loretto Chapel is located — from the distance.
A view of Santa Fe, New Mexico — where the Loretto Chapel is located — from a distance. Photo credit: David Mark

The Loretto Chapel is one of the most intriguing tourist attractions in Santa Fe, primarily because of its “miraculous staircase,” a 33-step helix shaped construction that stands without any visible support. Architects are at a loss to explain the phenomenon, though the people of Santa Fe have their own speculations.

The 'miracle' staircase in Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The ‘miracle’ staircase in Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Photo credit

The Sisters of Loretto first came to Santa Fe in 1852 and immediately began construction on a chapel. The chapel was nearing completion when builders realized that there was no way to get from the chapel to the choir loft, since it was too high for ordinary stairs. Carpenter after carpenter measured the space and announced that building a standard staircase was impossible. The sisters prayed for aid, and one day a man entered the chapel with only a hammer, a saw, and a T square.

The stranger offered to build a stairway and finished his work in just three months, leaving before the nuns could pay him. The staircase that he built is a structure which the laws of physics say should have collapsed the moment someone stepped on it. The wood itself is of an unknown species and is held together by wooden pegs.

Many sisters believe that the mysterious carpenter was St. Joseph, the patron saint of craftsmen, though to this day, the origin of the staircase and the identity of its creator remain a mystery. Though possibly of heavenly craftsmanship, the staircase now suffers some earthly damage and is not in use.

Want to see the staircase for yourself? Take a tour of Santa Fe with PlacePass.

Curious about other attractions around the US? Read our post on Brooklyn, New York.

 

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