Loretto Chapel

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207 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM, USA

Loretto Chapel Santa Fe Reviews

montecarlostar montecar…
326 reviews
Miraculous staircase Dec 31, 2013
The Loretto Chapel and its miraculous staircase are probably one of the main attractions of Santa Fe. The chapel itself is very small, although beautifully decorated. But what makes this chapel stand aside from other churches is the story behind its choir staircase.

You have probably heard the story: as the chapel was finished in the late 1800s, the nuns found out that the staircase to the choir was missing. They were praying to St. Joseph (who was a carpenter) for nine days until an old man appeared and offered to do the job for free. The result was a much simpler version of the staircase we can admire today.

The interesting thing about it, is its lack of central support, and that there was no glue or nails used on its construction, and the wood that was used is nowhere to be found in these lands. On the other hand, the style of the original staircase would be considered quite adventurous, but hey, it's a miracle, right?

Although of course there are some skeptics of the miracle, the staircase is indeed admirable. It was actually more impressive without the railing that was added later. Since nowadays the access is closed to the public, I think it should be removed and left in its original state. The one that St. Joseph intended anyway :)
The Loretto Chapel
Entrance sign
The miraculous staircase
The altarpiece
8 / 8 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
montecarlostar says:
Thanks so much Lauryl!!

Gracias Mónica, ya sé, yo tmb tenía medio abandonado al TB, pero la otra vez me puse a hacer reviews de mi último viaje y me gané un premio y un feature! Así que valió la pena jaja muchas gracias por las felicitaciones y te deseo un genial fin de semana ;) saludotes!!

Thanks so much Rhea!! :D
Posted on: Jan 17, 2014
rheagirl says:
Congrats on the feature!
Posted on: Jan 16, 2014
monky says:
Muchas felicidades Carlos wow que suerte casi no he checado TB y que bueno que me di cuenta de tu nuevo featured review lol! justo a tiempo:DDD que lo disfrutes bien merecido el reconocimiento a tu esfuerzo que tengas muy bonito fin de semana espero todo vaya de lo mejor saludotes!:D
Posted on: Jan 16, 2014
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nik2blessed nik2bles…
94 reviews
Beautiful chapel with a twist Apr 26, 2011
Very little fee for the entry to experience the history and sights of this beautiful chapel. It was less than $10, and worth the time and photos. From what the tour guide explained this chapel has an unique story behind it. Many have come miles, and even local to know what has been said about this chapel. There was a story about how the chapel staircase had been built by an carpenter, whom passed through the city years ago. No one knows his name, and this story has more detail in books, or even their website. If you ever view this chapel in person you will notice it doesn't have nails in the wood of the staircase, and it has been off limits now to people to step on it or touch. The condition it is in now, is so fragile. Years ago an all woman's choir sang at the top of these stairs and for obvious reasons no one does any longer. The chapel has candles for those that desire to light an electronic candle to send an prayer in there. Right outside, attached is an gift shop, other stores, and even a restaurant too. This would be one place, you don't want to miss in this town, beautiful!
display of loretto book
lobby of chapel
chapel inside
King Jesus
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
joehobo says:
Interesting Review.I too am a parishioner of a Church dedicated to Our Lady of Light called Luz church in Chennai,India.It was built in the year 1516.I have blogged about it too...:)
Posted on: Jan 16, 2014
travelfan1963 travelfa…
88 reviews
How do the Stairs Stand? Jan 19, 2010
The Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was designed after Sainte Chapelle in Paris. Begun in 1873, this beautiful chapel is filled with bright stained glass and was the first Gothic structure west of the Mississippi River.

This church has an interesting history. As the chapel was nearly complete, the builders realized they had made a major mistake. The church had no stairs to the upstairs choir loft and due to the design of the chapel, ordinary stairs would not work. Word spread throughout Santa Fe that the church needed a staircase and one day a mysterious man on a donkey arrived. This man built the Loretto staircase, and the architecture is nothing short of incredible. To this day, no one knows who the man was or how the stairs still stand.

Allegedly, the stairs were built using only wooden pegs. There is no pole to support the staircase that normally would be found in winding stairs. The banister was added later.

Looking at these stairs, it almost reminded me of a giant "slinky toy" as the stairs just hang. Climbing 23 feet, it's almost if the staircase defies gravity, as the structure looks like it could crash at any minute. Needless to say, the design is engineering genius.

For a $3.00 admission, the Loretto Chapel is well worth a visit. In addition to a seeing a lovely, historic chapel, the stairs are a source of wonderment. Tourists crowd around the stairs taking photos, gaping in awe. A repeating tape plays in the church explaining the history of both the chapel and the stairs.

If you are in Santa Fe, the Loretto Chapel should definitely be on your list. Architects and engineers come to Santa Fe just to marvel at the incredible stairwell construction. This chapel is a must see.
How do the stairs stay up?
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
nik2blessed says:
yes i agree a beautiful sight!
Posted on: Apr 27, 2011
bkretzer bkretzer
69 reviews
The Loretto Chapel and the Miraculous Staricase Jun 15, 2004
The Lorreto Chapel, even with out the Miraculous Staircase, would be worth a visit, if you enjoy this type of thing. It has an old (the chapel was completed in 1878) confessional, beautiful stained glass windows, an intricately carved alter featuring The Last Supper, life size statues of Joseph & Mary, and high cathedral ceilings. But, people come far and wide not view these, but to see the legendary Miraculous Staircase.

The story of the staircase has been featured on the TV program Unsolved Mysteries, and movie called The Staircase. The legend and why it is a miracle go something like this.

During the construction on the chapel it was noticed that there were no plans to build a staircase to get from the ground to choir loft above. In other chapels of the same design, a ladder was used. But those chapels had been used by monks. The Lorreto Chapel was the place of worship of an order of nuns. They were reluctant to use a ladder as their habits were gowns, and that was considered immodest. The builders proposed putting in a standard staircase, but to do that would have required the removal of several pews, and that was deemed unsatisfactory. It was ultimately decided that they would have to use a ladder.

But the sisters were not satisfied and began a novena (nine days of prayer) to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. After the novena had been completed a man showed up looking for work. He told the sisters he was a carpenter, and they in turn explained their problem to him. He said that he could build them a staircase. Much of what happened next is part of what makes the staircase a miracle, to the sisters. The carpenter did indeed build them a staircase. It was an exceptional piece of craftsmanship. The staircase ascends twenty feet and makes two complete 360 degree turns doing so. It has no center column, like all other spiral staircases do, and gives every impression that it should collapse the first time anyone set foot on it. The legend continues that when completed the carpenter disappeared without been paid, and the wood’s origin could not be established. The Sister’s believe that Joseph himself came to help them. So with both how the staircase holds itself up, and the identity of the carpenter in question, the sisters of Loretto were convinced that a miracle had occurred.

The mystery will likely never be explained to complete satisfaction, but a historian, Mary Jean Straw Cook believes that the carpenter was a French carpenter named François-Jean Rochus. She bases this on his obituary which says he was a master carpenter and a notation in the Lorreto Chapel books that says $150 dollars was paid to a man named Rochas for wood.

Whoever the carpenter was, he did a masterful job. There are no nails and the wood is perfectly shaped and finished. The rails you see in my picture were added much later, so original staircase very much looked like only God was holding it up. The church is no longer active, but is a museum. Admission is $2.50. I was very impressed with the quality of work. While the staircase is no longer used, and is roped off, you can get very close to it. I was told that when it was used, it a spring/give to it. But it was used daily for over 100 years and still looks great. While we had to cut our visit short due the need for a bathroom (no public ones at the chapel), we were all happy that we went and it is absolutely worth a stop.
The Loretto Chapel
The Miraculous Staircase
Stained Glass window
On the other side
2 / 2 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
joehobo says:
This story is told in catechism classes to children in church when something is mentioned about praying to ST.Joseph who was a carpenter himself.
Posted on: Jan 16, 2014
cotton_foam says:
I am amazed!!
Posted on: Jan 12, 2014
Squeak123 says:
I will be travelling through New Mexico on Amtrak's South West Chief in June. This has given me a good insight and a few ideas !
Posted on: Mar 22, 2008

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