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Loretto Chapel

Loretto Chapel, NM
The Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States, is a former Roman Catholic church that is now used as a museum and a wedding chapel. … See more


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Jan 22, 2023
1. I am not Catholic 2. I usually avoid things that smell like tourist traps 3. This is just a block from the much more grand Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, which you can visit for fr… Full review by montanapescado
Jan 17, 2023
While the staircase is impressive, $5 per person was a bit steep for less than 5 minute visit. We looked at it as a donation to the church and kept moving. Full review by cvmillers
Jan 15, 2023
Loved hearing the story about the miraculous staircase. It's a short little stop you can work into your visit to Santa Fe, and short enough for kids to come along without getting too bored. Full review by vcw2002


A Work of Beauty and Craftsmanship
The story goes something like this: Our Lady of Light Chapel was built for the Sisters of Loretto in Santa Fe, New Mexico, beginning in 1872, but the Bishop in charge died of pneumonia in 1888, before he could finish it. One of the most important elements left unfinished in the Gothic chapel was a way for the sisters to get to the choir loft from the chapel. While they could use a ladder to access the loft, they felt this was both inappropriate and dangerous due to their robes. A conventional staircase would have taken too much space and marred the aesthetics of the space. With no other recourse, the sisters did what they do best - they prayed. They prayed for nine straight days - to St. Joseph, patron saint of carpenters - for a solution to emerge. Lo and behold, a mysterious shabby-looking stranger appeared, leading a donkey, who said he would build them a staircase. However, to do so, he needed total privacy and a few tubs of hot water. Using only very basic tools, he spent the next three months in the chapel building the magnificent spiral staircase, and when it was finished, promptly disappeared before being paid. When the Sisters and others examined the stairs, they were shocked to see it was apparently holding itself up with no supports and was made of a non-native wood which they didn’t know how or where the stranger had acquired. To top it off, the staircase, which was made with no nails, had exactly 33 stairs. The staircase was, for the Sisters of Loretto, a miracle. The staircase is indeed a mastery of woodworking. The twenty-foot-tall, tightly wound stairs make two full 360-degree revolutions, and indeed have no central support. And to make such a staircase using only wooden dowels is an astonishing work of craftsmanship. But for all the stairs’ beauty, they have some problems which are usually left out of the story. Originally, the stairs had no outer railing, and the nuns, terrified of tripping, would crawl down them on hands and knees. A railing was added ten years later. While it is true that the stairs do not have a conventional straight central support, the tightly wound inner stringer functions as one. This twisted central support, however, has a downside: the stairs, built like a giant spring, also have a strong bounce to them and left people feeling shaken before a brace was added, with the outer railing. Finally, there’s the matter of the mysterious wood that the carpenter used: spruce. The carpenter and architect of the staircase remains unknown, though the work has been attributed to German carpenter Johann Hadwiger, despite little evidence for his involvement. The staircase has been closed for general use since the 1970s, officially because of fire codes, but more likely because the relatively fragile structure was suffering from overuse. Nonetheless, the chapel is a popular wedding destination, as a bride and groom can have a small, Las Vegas-style wedding there, with only a priest and two witnesses in attendance, or can pack the chapel with friends and relatives for a traditional wedding. For these events, the bride and groom may climb the first ten stairs of the staircase for photographs. While it easy to dismiss supernatural claims about the staircase, the stairs are still a work of beauty and craftsmanship that deserve respect on their own merits. In 1998 the story of the staircase was turned into a CBS made-for-TV movie, The Staircase. How the producers turned the building of a spiral staircase into a two-hour drama remains a mystery.
Sure to Impress and Inspire All Visitors
Now a museum and wedding chapel, this former Roman Catholic church was commissioned in 1873. It was built by the Sisters of Loretto for their girls' school. French architects Antoine and Projectus Mouly based the design on the Gothic Revival-style Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. The building has the spires, buttresses, and stained glass that you'd expect from such a structure. The centerpiece of the church, however, is the spiral staircase. Known as the Miraculous Stairs, they climb two full turns to the choir loft above. The stairs have no support structure or central pole, and they are held together only with glue and wood pegs. The stairs never fail to impress even modern carpenters who have access to modern tools and methods that the stair's creator couldn't even dream of. According to the Sisters of Loretto, the choir loft and stairs were the last additions needed for the church, but the primary architect's death created problems. No one could find a solution for creating the loft in such a limited space, and so the nuns prayed to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, for nine days straight. On the ninth day, a mysterious stranger appeared and agreed to build the staircase. The man worked in solitude and disappeared after the staircase was completed. The sisters were certain it was a miracle. Why You Should Visit The spiral staircase is sure to impress and inspire all visitors with its workmanship and history. You also won't want to miss the gorgeous adornments to the former church, including the stained glass rose window and many statues. The chapel was the first Gothic building built west of the Mississippi. Tips Take the time to listen to the chapel's audiotape history, which will fill you in on the intriguing history of the chapel. The tape plays on a loop throughout the chapel. Opening hours: Monday – Saturday: 9 am – 4:30 pm; Sunday: 10:30 am – 5 pm
Unusual Helix Shaped Spiral Staircase
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, that may have been created by French carpenter Francois-Jean "Frenchy" Rochas, although 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 and many visitors. The story was the subject of the 1998 movie The Staircase, starring Barbara Hershey and William Petersen. 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 suddenly 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.

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