Does A Stairway At Santa Fe’s Loretto Chapel Miraculously Stand Despite Having No Discernable Means Of Support
Fans of made-for-TV movies might recall The Staircase, a film starring Barbara Hershey as Mother Madalyn, a nun whose dying wish to see the construction of her order’s chapel completed comes true through the efforts of a mysterious carpenter known only as “Joad.” The movie was based on the legend of the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the site of the “mysterious staircase” referred to in a widely-circuiated message:
The Loretto Academy was a school for women founded in Santa Fe in 1852 by the local Sisters of Loretto. In 1873 construction was begun to add a chapel to the site, a project plagued by some unfortunate incidents . As the builders were finishing up work on the chapel, they found that the plans drawn up by the late architect had not included any means of access to the chapel’s choir loft. This was when, according to Alice Bullock’s book, Loretto and the Miraculous Staircase, the now-legendary events kicked in.
The notion of constructing an ordinary staircase up to the choir loft was apparently rejected both because it would have limited the available seating in the loft and because it would have been aesthetically unappealing. As Bullock described the nuns’ dilemma over how to proceed: “Carpenters and builders were called in, only to shake their heads in despair. When all else had failed, the Sisters determined to pray a novena to the Master Carpenter himself, St. Joseph.”
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Loretto Chapel In Santa Fe: A Church Or A Museum
From its name, we know that Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe is a church. But what was a Roman Catholic church, now it is used as a museum and a wedding chapel.
Loretto Chapel is known for its unusual spiral staircase that has two 360 degrees turns and no visible means of support. It is also said that the staircase was built without nails, only wooden pegs.
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No More Of Extraordinary Ministers Of The Eucharist No More Of Communions In The Hand
No more of extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, no more of Communions in the hand! The Body and Blood of my Son, are outraged by many lay people who give themselves tasks that belong only to priests and other consecrated Ministers such as: the Pope, the Cardinals and Bishops. No hand that has not been consecrated through the ministerial Priesthood, can touch My Son…John Paul II:“I cannot be in favor of the Communion in the hand and I cannot recommend it. The priest has a primordial responsibility as a ‘servant of the Holy Eucharist and of all the Holy Forms’, primordial because it is complete. Touching the Holy Creations is a privilege of the ordained ones”Monsignor Juan Rodolfo Laise, Argentine Bishop, he states:Jesus to Catalina Rivas, (stigmatized seer. Nihil obstat by Msgr. R. Fernández, Bolivian Archbishop:“There are neither 10 nor 20 executioners who hit My Body, but many hands that hurt My Body by receiving Communion in their hand – the sacrilegious work of Satan.”
Jesus to Giuliana Crescio, December 1989:“extraordinary circumstances”“Extraordinary” “The thing“Only they,
Miraculous Stairway Of Loretto Chapel Santa Fe
Do you believe in miraculous places? Theres a small chapel located in the heart of Santa Fe, New Mexico that stands out among the adobe style buildings with a rich, mysterious and interesting history. Many people visit the Gothic Revival-style Loretto Chapel, modeled after King Louis IXs Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. But, the main attraction here is the much-touted miraculous spiral staircase inside the chapel. We couldnt resist a peek inside this mysterious chapel during our visit to the Land of Enchantment to learn its story.
The Academy of Our Lady of Light , a Catholic girls school, was opened in 1853 by the Sisters of Loretto after a plea from New Mexicos Bishop to spread the Catholic faith in this new territory. The school grew to about 300 students and the sisters raised $30,000 to build the chapel which was completed in 1878.
Due to the early demise of the architects, the chapel was built without an access to its choir loft 22 feet above the main area. Other carpenters stated that there was no room for a staircase. The sisters were not satisfied with the ladder option. It was believed that the Sisters of Loretto prayed for a solution to their problem to St. Joseph, patron saint of carpenters.
Over the years, it came to be known as St. Josephs Staircaseand was believed by many as miraculous and mysterious for its unknown carpenter and its construction.
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The Loretto Chapel Staircase Miracle
Two mysteries surround the spiral staircase in the Loretto Chapel:
1. The identity of its builder
2. The physics of its construction.
City of Santa Fé, in New Mexico, USA. A mystery of over 130 years and attracting around 250,000 visitors every year. Point of attention: Loretto Chapel.
What makes this chapel different from all others is that the subject of the supposed miracle that took place in it is a staircase.
A chapel was constructed somewhere in the 19th century. When it was ready, the nuns found that there was no staircase built to take them to the top level.
They spent 9 days praying to St. Joseph, who was a carpenter.
On the last day, a stranger knocked at their door and said that he was a carpenter who could help them build the staircase.
He constructed the staircase, all by himself, which was considered to be the pride of carpentery.
None knew how the staircase could stand by itself as it did not have a central support.
Then the carpenter, who did not use a single nail or glue to construct this staircase, disappeared without even waiting for his payment.
There was a rumour in the city of Santa Fé that the carpenter was St. Joseph himself, sent by Jesus Christ to attend to the nuns problem. Since then, the staircase was called miraculous and the site for pilgrimages.
There are three mysteries about this staircase, says the spokesman of the chapel. The first mystery is that, to this day, the identity of the builder is not known.
Experts Consider Miracle Stairs In Santa Fes Loretto Chapel
Shawn Christman of Seattle Stair and Design looks up the central helical stringer, or center support, of the staircase at the Loretto Chapel on Thursday. One hundred and fifty years ago it took a very well-trained, seasoned, experienced master craftsman, Christman said. Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican
Clyde Martin, left, and Mike Austin, both of Sacramento, Calif., ponder the mysteries of the staircase at the Loretto Chapel on Thursday during the Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association conference. Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican
Attendees of the Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association conference look at the staircase at the Loretto Chapel on Thursday. Experts said that if built today, the stairs would be constructed similarly to the original, making them an impressive feat of craftsmanship, even if they may not be a miracle. Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican
Architect Frank Mascia and Barbro Huth, both of Tucson, Ariz., examine the staircase at the Loretto Chapel on Thursday during the Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association conference. Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican
Logic intersected with the twisting mystique of a perceived miracle in Santa Fe this week.
About 170 stair-building professionals from around the world are congregating for a four-day conference at La Fonda on the Plaza a confab highlighted, perhaps, by the opportunity to ponder the mystery of the corkscrew stairs within the Loretto Chapel.
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The Construction & Materials Left Some Scratching Their Head
One of the puzzling parts of the story is that the materials he used for the staircase were not local. In fact, they were quite unusual, and were sourced from somewhere they couldnt identify, outside of Santa Fe. These days that wouldnt be a big deal, but back then it sure was. Especially considering the man had only a donkey.
Further, the staircase was built with a double helix shape, which included two 360 degree turns. This is both rare and extremely difficult.
To top it off, the miracle staircase has no visible supports. There was no centre pole to support the stairs, which means that the entire weight of the structure rested on the bottom step. The staircase is held together with wod pegs. No nails were used at all.
And the last puzzling and inspiring element: there are 33 stairs leading up to the choir loft notably the age of Jesus when he was crucified.
The Helix Staircase Of The Loretto Chapel And Other Miracles
Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in New Mexico, US. But it is not just the age of the city that makes it a popular destination. In the center of the city stands an architectural landmark, a former Roman Catholic Church , which is known as the Loretto chapel. The church was built in the 1870s and it has a French gothic style , but unlike other chapels where you admire the paintings, statues, stained glass , and masonry skills, this chapel is famous for its helix spiral staircase , otherwise called the Miraculous Stairs.
Were The Stairs Created By A Man From A French Secret Society
Santa Fe New Mexican offers an alternative explanation for the amazing staircase. Its said that when historian Mary J. Straw Cook researched the stairs for a book she was writing, she found information in an 1881 nuns daybook that a man named Rochas was paid for wood. Francois-Jean Rochas, an alleged member of a French secret society of highly skilled craftsmen and artisans called the Compagnons, which had existed since the Middle Ages has been named as the skilled woodworker who apparently came to the U.S. with the purpose of building the staircase with wood shipped from France.
When a group of stair-building professionals convened at the Loretto Chapel a few years ago to see the staircase they were shocked at the beauty, design, and engineering of the stairs. A couple of their comments on the workmanship after analyzing the stairs are: We all like to think we create creative stair designs and nice curved staircases, but to think how they did it that long ago and still attain the same quality is breathtaking and
One hundred and fifty years ago it took a very well-trained, seasoned, experienced master craftsman. We have been building them for centuries like this. The fact that somebody showed up out of the desert might be a miracle, but he knew exactly what he was doing.
Miraculous staircase, Loretto chapel. Santa Fe, NM. / CC BY NC SA 2.0 )
What I Saw At The Loretto Staircase
Some believe that the actual builder of this famous staircase in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was none other than St. Joseph himself.
It is believed that there exists a staircase in Santa Fe, New Mexico, that St. Joseph built. Since I read about it as a young child, I have always wanted to see the famous staircase, and I was finally blessed with my chance on a recent road trip.
My father was a gifted carpenter, and I was fascinated by his projects growing up. If my dad needed something a storage compartment for his boat, a home sauna or a ramp for his wheelchair he didnt buy it. He built it. Growing up, I used to love going to the lumber yard with my dad to pick out wood, stain and nails for his projects. I was mesmerized watching Dad turn raw materials into beautiful, finished products. Perhaps that is what initially spurred my interest in the staircase. And though I thought about my Dad as I admired the stairs, I knew that he never built anything like this.
After several years, the chapels construction was coming along quite well, except for one glaring problem: there was no staircase to the choir loft. Brokaw explains that European chapels at that time often had no staircases but relied on ladders. And while this may not pose a problem for exclusively male choirs, Brokaw notes that such a system would be terrifying to the sisters, who wore habits and to the girls who wore long dresses below the tops of their shoes.
I saw Faith.
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Things Get Odd With The Staircase And The Stranger
After the lone carpenter completed the staircase, he allegedly disappeared before the Sisters could pay him or find out his name. The legend claims that they even ran a newspaper ad to find him, to no avail.
But the man who constructed the staircase was not the only mystery. The wood that was used was completely unknown and the construction was a marvel. According to the official website of the Loretto Chapel, the spiral steps have two full 360-degree turns and yet don’t appear to have a visible source of support. Moreover, it was created solely with wooden pegs, with neither nails nor glue, and out of a material that is either completely unknown or not native to the region.
The combination of the mysterious builder, perplexing construction, and the unknown wood led the Sisters to believe the staircase was an example of divine intervention and credited St. Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus Christ, as the man who had helped create it.
The History Of The Miraculous Staircase In Loretto Chapel
Loretto Chapel was built in 1878 without access to the choir loft twenty-two feet above. The Sisters of the Chapel asked carpenters around for solutions but all said it needed a ladder as a staircase would interfere with the interior of this small Chapel. Then they made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters.
On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. He started the work and completed the staircase to the choir loft. But the carpenter disappeared without pay and thanks once his work had done. The Sisters searched for the man with no trace, and some believed that he was St. Joseph the carpenter himself, having come in answer to the sisters prayers.
The Beautiful Loretto Chapel
Like most churches built in the 1800s, Loretto Chapel has a Gothic architecture style. When I walked into the chapel, I felt like I walked into one of the buildings in Gotham City. But peaceful was what I felt once inside the chapel.
The miraculous staircase stood magnificently at the back of the chapel. People lit candles and said their prayers. The stained glasses added a touch of beauty to this chapel. No wonder its one of the favorite places for a wedding. Even it doesnt function as a church anymore, everybody kept their voices low to respect others who came for a quiet time.
Tips for visiting Loretto Chapel:
Chapel may close without notice for special events call ahead to make sure its open.
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More Historic New Mexico Churches To Visit
As magnificent as the Loretto Chapel is, there are more amazing New Mexico churches worth visiting. From old traditional cathedrals to environmentally conscious monasteries built to reflect the environment, there are stunning churches dotted all around Santa Fe. Here are a few of the best New Mexico Churches to visit after youve seen the Loretto Chapel.
St Joseph And The Staircase
I decided to take the southern route while driving across the country a couple years ago.
|The San Miguel Chapel|
I’d never been to Santa Fe, and wanted to get a glimpse of its historical riches especially its mission churches, which predate the ones in California I have known from my youth.
Santa Fe’s old town square district is charming and lively. Only a few blocks away from the cathedral stands one of the oldest churches in the United States the San Miguel chapel. Its huge wooden support beams, visible throughout the interior, are as indicative of its surroundings as its adobe walls, constructed in 1610. The distinctive devotional artwork within, deriving from Spain, also seizes the eye. Its compact earthiness, relative lack of height, and dearth of windows makes it reminiscent of the Romanesque.
Only a few steps away lies the chapel of Loretto, which, by contrast, looks transplanted directly from Europe. Built in the 1870s, its style is French Gothic. In fact, it was inspired after the Sainte Chapelle in Paris. Elegant in its own right from both the exterior and interior, its real claim to fame as I was to discover only upon visiting is its remarkable wooden, spiral staircase.
Here’s how it came to be. The recently arrived sisters of Loretto were pleased with the progress of the chapel quite a sophisticated undertaking in such a remote corner of the new world whose construction they had placed under the patronage of St. Joseph .
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