Loretto Chapel

The Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA is a former Roman Catholic church that is now used as a museum and wedding chapel. It is known for its unusual helix-shaped spiral staircase (the "Miraculous Stair"). The name and origin of the builder have still not been verified. The Sisters of Loretto credit St. Joseph with its construction.

It has been the subject of legend and rumor, and the circumstances surrounding its construction and its builder are considered miraculous by the Sisters of Loretto.

History of the staircase construction

In 1872 Jean-Baptiste Lamy, the Bishop of the Santa Fe Archdiocese, commissioned the building of a convent chapel to be named Our Lady of Light Chapel, which would be in the care of the Sisters of Loretto. The chapel was designed by French architect Antoine Mouly in the Gothic Revival style, complete with spires, buttresses, and stained glass windows imported from France. Although it was built on a much smaller scale, the chapel bears an obvious resemblance to the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

The architect died suddenlyШаблон:Citation needed and it was only after much of the chapel was constructed that the builders realized it was lacking any type of stairway to the choir loft. Due to the chapel's small size, a standard staircase would have been too large. Historians have also noted that earlier churches of the period had ladders rather than stairs to the choir loft, but the Sisters did not feel comfortable with that prospect because of the long habits that they wore.

The Sisters of Loretto relate the story as follows:

Needing a way to get up to the choir loft the nuns prayed for St. Joseph's intercession for nine straight days. On the day after their novena ended a shabby-looking stranger appeared at their door. He told the nuns he would build them a staircase but that he needed total privacy and locked himself in the chapel for three months. He used a small number of primitive tools including a square, a saw and some warm water and constructed a spiral staircase entirely of non-native wood. The identity of the carpenter is not known for as soon as the staircase was finally finished he was gone. Many witnesses, upon seeing the staircase, feel it was constructed by St. Joseph himself, as a miraculous occurrence.
The resulting staircase is an impressive work of carpentry. It ascends twenty feet, making two complete revolutions up to the choir loft without the use of nails or apparent center support. It has been surmised that the central spiral of the staircase is narrow enough to serve as a central beam. Nonetheless there was no attachment unto any wall or pole in the original stairway, although in 1887 -- 10 years after it was built -- a railing was added and the outer spiral was fastened to an adjacent pillar. Instead of metal nails, the staircase was constructed using dowels or wooden pegs.

Master carpenter Tim Carter explains that, "A simple staircase has two beams, called stringers, and the treads of the staircase rest on these beams or are connected to them...the weight of the staircase [is] transferred to where the two stringers touch the floor. The only difference with the staircase at the Loretto Chapel is these beams or stringers have been twisted into a helix." However, Carter does view the staircase as a magnificent work of art, and a feat to create using modern tools, let alone with crude hand tools and no electricity.

The history and construction of the staircase was also investigated by author Ben Radford, who published his findings, including the probable name of the legendary builderШаблон:Who, in his book Mysterious New Mexico.

Loretto Academy

Loretto Chapel was used on a daily basis by the female students of Loretto Academy as well as by its nuns until the Academy and Chapel closed as Catholic institutions. Born in Santa Fe in 1917 (1917–2005), Mary Frances Hill (née Julian) attended the Loretto Academy from 1920 until 1935 and is considered to have attended the Academy longer than any other student and as having climbed the miraculous staircase more times than anyone else as a result of having been a member of the Academy's choir.Шаблон:Citation needed In 1968, after the Academy closed, the all-male St. Michael's High School turned co-ed to accommodate the Academy's female students.Шаблон:Citation needed

The Chapel today

The Loretto Chapel is now primarily a museum but weddings may be arranged in the Chapel, including a highlight of the wedding couple being photographed on the staircase. There is an entrance fee for the chapel. It is owned by a private company. The Church of Antioch at Santa Fe, an inclusive Sacramental Community in the Catholic style, offers Holy Eucharist every Sunday morning at 8:45 am.Шаблон:Citation needed

In popular culture

The story was the subject of the 1998 television film The Staircase, starring Barbara Hershey and William Petersen.

The case was investigated and subsequently re-enacted in the Unsolved Mysteries episode "Miracle Staircase".

Young-adult author Ann Rinaldi based her book The Staircase on the Loretto Chapel.

References

Шаблон:Reflist

External links

Шаблон:Commons category

Listed in the following categories:
Post a comment
Tips & Hints
Arrange By:
Michael Odza
12 April 2010
Schedule your destination wedding here, or just visit to check out the mysterious, "miraculous" spiral staircase. A beautiful, 18th C. French-style chapel in the midst of Santa Fe's adobe.
Michael Odza
1 December 2016
Pay a token amount to take self-guided tour, check Pasatiempo (in newspaper) for concerts (great acoustics) -- or best of all, schedule your destination wedding here!
Lee C.
4 November 2012
Park at the Cathedral. The machine takes credit cards, and the parking rate is $2/hour. You will get a receipt to put on your dashboard. Loretto and San Miguel's are all within walking distance.
Sophia Alonzo
9 September 2014
Of course the amazing staircase is the star attraction. Beautiful, small little church worth seeing. :-)
Patrick Bohr
17 September 2014
Shares parking lot with city tours tram and if you take the tour you can park
Robert Mathias
3 October 2016
The staircase was kind of cool to see but it was not worth paying $3 a person to look at a staircase for 3 minutes. If I would have known what it was before hand I would not have paid to see it.
Load more comments
foursquare.com
8.9/10
66,283 people have been here
Map
207 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA Get directions
Mon-Sat 9:00 AM–5:00 PM
Sun 10:30 AM–5:00 PM

Loretto Chapel on Foursquare

Loretto Chapel on Facebook

Hotels nearby

See all hotels See all
Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi

starting $404

Inn & Spa at Loretto

starting $360

La Fonda on the Plaza

starting $419

Hotel Chimayo de Santa Fe - Heritage Hotels and Resorts

starting $218

Hotel St. Francis - Heritage Hotels and Resorts

starting $194

Luxx Boutique Hotel

starting $209

Recommended sights nearby

See all See all
Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
La Fonda on the Plaza

La Fonda on the Plaza is a historical luxury hotel, located at 100 E.

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi (Santa Fe)

The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, commonly known as

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Santa Fe Plaza

The Santa Fe Plaza is a National Historic Landmark in downtown Santa

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
San Miguel Mission

San Miguel Mission, also known as San Miguel Chapel, is a Spanish

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Palace of the Governors

The Palace of the Governors (1610) is an adobe structure located on

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Santa Fe Historic District

Santa Fe Historic District is a historic district in Santa Fe, New

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
New Mexico Museum of Art

The New Mexico Museum of Art (formerly the Museum of Fine Arts), the

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Lensic Theater

The Lensic Theater, located at 211 West San Francisco Street in Santa

Similar tourist attractions

See all See all
Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Sainte-Chapelle

La Sainte-Chapelle (English: The Holy Chapel) is a Gothic chapel on

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Palatine Chapel in Aachen

The Palatine Chapel is a medieval chapel that was part of

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Scrovegni Chapel

The Scrovegni Chapel, or Cappella degli Scrovegni, also known as the

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Medici Chapel

The Medici Chapels (Cappelle medicee) in the Basilica of San Lorenzo,

Add to wishlist
I've been here
Visited
Magi Chapel

The Magi Chapel is a chapel in Palazzo Medici Riccardi of Florence. It

See all similar places