The Miraculous Staircase in Santa Fe, New Mexico

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Anything that has the word miraculous used to describe it, instantly makes it on my list of travel destinations to see. It’s not often I encounter places that have this word in their title, but it did happen to be the case when I was going to be stopping in Santa Fe — the home of The Miraculous Staircase.

The Miraculous Staircase can be found in the small Loretto Chapel on Old Santa Fe Trail. From the exterior, you wouldn’t be struck by anything overwhelmingly special about the structure — certainly nothing miraculous about it.

First, a little history behind the Loretto Chapel and it’s Miraculous Staircase: the chapel was completed in 1878, but there was no way to reach the choir loft above. In that time period, ladders were commonly used to access the choir loft…but the nuns did not feel comfortable with this because of the long habits that they wore.

Because the chapel was too small for a standard staircase, the Sisters of Loretto began nine days of prayer to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the final day of prayer, a stranger arrived at their door looking for work. His only request was that he would need total privacy, and he locked himself in the chapel for three months. Upon completion, the sisters found the beautiful staircase but the man had vanished without accepting payment. After searching for the mysterious man with no luck, the sisters concluded that St. Joseph himself had come to answer their prayers.

What makes the staircase inside the Loretto Chapel so miraculous, you might ask? Three main things:

1. The identity of the builder. After the man had disappeared, the sisters had even put out a
newspaper ad in an effort to locate him, but they had no success. They also put out a reward to find
out the man’s identity, but it was never claimed.
2. No central support. The staircase makes two 360 degree turns and has no visible means of support. On top of that, no nails were used — only dowels and wooden pegs. This was an innovative form of carpentry at the time.
3. Non-native wood. The wood used to construct the staircase, possibly spruce, was not from the area. This was strange considering nobody saw lumber delivered to the chapel or saw the man come & go.

One last thing that makes the structure a supposed miracle: the staircase contains 33 steps, the age of Jesus Christ.


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