A helix of belief and physics: the "miraculous" staircase in Santa Fe
Some visitors to Santa Fe are surprised to find this Gothic revival structure in the middle of all of the adobe buildings in the historic district, like a piece of medieval Paris transplanted to the Wild West. The French connection is real--the 19th-century Loretto Chapel was designed by a French architect who modeled it after La Sainte Chappelle on the Île de la Cité in the Seine.
According to legend, though, the plans didn't include access from the chapel floor to the choir loft. So, upon its completion in the 1870's, the nuns who ran the girls' school for which this stone structure was built began praying, and after nine days, a mysterious carpenter arrived. Neither nails nor glue nor any visible external support were used in this doubly-twisting staircase, and no one ever found out the name of the carpenter, who left without seeking a salary. It must've been St. Joseph himself...So goes the legend of "the miraculous staircase"...
The physics of the structure can be explained by architects today, but that doesn't stop about a quarter-million visitors every year from marveling at the elegant spruce spiral.
Open to the public as a privately-run museum, the Loretto Chapel hasn't been a church for decades. It can, however, be rented: a spectacular setting for a private wedding.