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lorettochapelstairsLOCATION: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
ARTIST: Unknown

In 1872 Jean-Baptiste Lamy, Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, commissioned the building of the Chapel of Our Lady of Light for a group of nuns known as the  Loretto Sisters who had agreed to some and open a school.

It was designed by a French architect by the name of Antoine Mouly,

Mouly died suddenly and other architects joined together to finish the structure. When the chapel was completed in 1878 they realized one thing was missing....the staircase to the choir loft!

Due to the small size of the chapel, a standard staircase would have been too large. Many architects attempted to plan out a spiral staircase but the height needed would have required a very wide spiral with numerous supports, taking up a good amount of floor space and interfering with the interior of the chapel. The only solution was the use of a ladder to climb 22 feet above to the loft.

The mother superior of the nuns knew a ladder would not be acceptable with the long habits that the sisters wore. She immediate decided she and the rest of the sisters would hold a novena to St. Joseph asking his for assistance. After all he was a carpenter!

On the ninth and final day of the novena, a man riding his donkey with his carpenter tools showed up. The mother superior took this as a sign from God and asked the man if he would build a staircase for them. the man agreed under one condition - that he have total privacy while he built it. The mother superior agreed.

Eight months later, the carpenter informed the mother superior he was finished. The mother superior, as well as everyone else who has seen the staircase, was amazed by what the saw and what they soon learned about it:

  • The staircase contains no nails, screws or glue.
  • There is no central support, meaning all the weight is on the base. 
  • Architects have stated the force of gravity should cause it to collapse the minute one person stepped foot on it. Yet, it still stands today.
  • The wood used does not come from this area. No one ever reported a wood delivery from outside the region.
  • The carpenter disappeared right after it was completed. No one knew his name nor did he accept payment.  

The staircase has been used daily for over 100 years and to this day, no one knows the actual identity of the builder. However, if you ask any of the Loretto Sisters "Who built that staircase?" Their response would be "ST. JOSEPH!".



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