Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Miracle Staircase

Dear Friend,

I hope you will enjoy learning about a hidden gem in the Southwestern U.S.

Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Due to a formidable error, it was built with no access to the choir loft twenty-two feet above. A ladder was suggested as a means to access the choir loft but that seemed far too impractical to the nuns. Several expert carpenters were consulted and the verdict was the same "building a staircase would take up too much room in the small church due to the height of the choir loft".

The only two alternatives were to climb to the loft via a ladder or tear the entire balcony down and rebuild it. Legend has it that the Sisters of the Chapel made a novena (a devotion consisting of nine separate days of prayers) to St. Joseph (the father of Jesus), 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.

Months later, the elegant circular staircase which had two 360 degree turns with no visible means of support was completed, and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him, some concluded that he was St. Joseph himself, having come in answer to the sisters' prayers.

To this day questions surround the number of stair risers relative to the height of the choir loft and about the types of wood and other materials used in the stairway's construction.

Over the years many have flocked to the Loretto Chapel to see the Miraculous Staircase. The staircase has been the subject of many articles, TV specials, and movies including "Unsolved Mysteries" and the television movie titled "The Staircase."

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