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 Chapelle in Paris. According to legend, though, the plans failed to include access from the chapel floor to the choir loft. So, 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 payment. 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.
By Joseph Cyr, AFAR Local Expert
207 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA
Sun 10:30am - 5pm
Mon - Sat 9am - 5pm