I have been in some of the great cities of this great country and always I go to the great Sanctuaries. Santa Fe is no exception, the St. Francis Basilica is gorgeous and inspiring- however, sitting beside the great cathedral is a small Gothic chapel, thought to be the first of that type architecture west of the Mississippi, the Loretto Chapel. Our Lady of Light Chapel was modelled after Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and was constructed in the 1870’s to serve as a chapel for the Loretto Academy for young women, operated by the Sisters of Loretto.
A serious design flaw was discovered after construction- the tiny chapel had not included a staircase to the choir loft. To install one would decrease the seating capacity and seriously affect the beauty of the design. It was suggested that the young women could ascend a ladder to sing, however this would have not been proper or safe.. The Sisters sought Divine Guidance by calling for a Novena to their patron saint, Saint Joseph, the Carpenter. For nine days they prayed. Upon the ninth day, the last of the Novena, a mysterious carpenter appeared, who called himself Jose. He said he had come to design and build a circular staircase to the choir loft.
He arrived with a donkey loaded with only three tools- a hammer, a saw and a T square; and tubs in which to soak the wood. The stairway has 33 stair treads in two full 360 degree turns with no center support, nor is it held with any side supports, the full weight rests on the bottom tread. Testing throughout the years has revealed no nails, no pegs and no glue were used in the construction. Further, as science as progressed- the wood has been tested; recent tests revealed- the staircase does not appear to be constructed of any known type of wood found in the entire world.
Upon completion, the mysterious carpenter disappeared, without seeking payment. No records could be found by the Sisters for the purchase of the wood or any building materials. The carpenter was never found. Engineers, architects, scientists and historians marvel at the design, the materials and construction techniques employed; there is no known duplication of the design of the staircase-though extensive research has been done throughout the years. The only modification was to add a handrail ten years after construction. A movie was made of the.Miraculous Staircase and books have been written. Every effort seems to have been made to disprove the miracle.
However, I have been there more than 3 times- though I am no scientist or theologian-I can attest to the fact that I have felt something holy, something miraculous, something undetermined by my human mind whenever I have seen it. The Chapel of Loretto is privately owned, it no longer belongs to the Catholic Church. For this staircase to have remained instead of being destroyed when it was sold, for it to have survived for almost 150 years and withstood the scrutiny of those who would wish to dispel it’s origins, is miraculous. To stand in awe of it, is to stand in the presence of what I have come to thoroughly believe is a true miracle, wrought by an Holy God through a mysterious Carpenter Who Heard and Answered the fervent prayers of His Own. I am blessed to have been a witness to the beauty of Loretto Chapel and the Miraculous Staircase.
Weddings and Special Services are still held at Loretto Chapel, the staircase is roped off but was used well into the 20th century. All donations to the Loretto Chapel go toward the retirement funds for the Sisters of Loretto, the Chapel of Light. I hope you are inspired by these unretouched photographs of the Miraculous Staircase. Have a Blessed Lord’s Day. It’s a Day to believe in Miracles, I do…I hope you do too.
Love y’all, Camellia
Miraculous Staircase books and movies found on Amazon.com
www.lorettochapel.com for more information