This is a small, privately-owned chapel (with a small entrance fee) just off the Plaza area that used to belong to the Sisters of Loretto. The main attraction is a unique spiral staircase to the choir loft that appears to have no support. They play up the legendary story of its miraculous construction, but even if you aren’t convinced by the tale, there’s no denying that the design is interesting and beautiful. If religious history is of interest to you, the nearby Cathedral of St. Francis is also worth a stop, as are the Spanish Mission attractions.
“home to a miraculous staircase”
This holy site is a Roman Catholic parish containing a miraculous staircase attributed to the intercession of St. Joseph. The story of the miraculous staircase: When the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878, there was no way to access the choir loft twenty-two feet above. Carpenters were called in to address the problem, but they all concluded access to the loft would have to be via ladder as a staircase would interfere with the interior space of the small Chapel. Legend says that to find a solution to the seating problem, the Sisters of the Chapel made a novena to St. Joseph, 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 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. The stairway's carpenter, whoever he was, built a magnificent structure. The design was innovative for the time and some of the design considerations still perplex experts today. The staircase has two 360 degree turns and no visible means of support. Also, it is said that the staircase was built without nails—only wooden pegs. Questions also 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.
This is home to one of the world's most beautiful and enigmatic circular staircases. Built in 1878, however after it was constructed it lacked a way for the sisters to walk up to the choir loft. When local carpenters couldn’t figure out an appropriate solution the sisters “made a novena to Saint Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters.” And lo and behold, the very next day a mysterious stranger came into town on the back of a donkey. Then, a few months later a gorgeous circular staircase was built. The carpenter left as mysteriously as he arrived. Hence, the legend that he’s Saint Joseph himself.
The chapel really is beautiful, but whoever is currently managing it is doing it a huge disservice. There are signs posted encouraging quiet but they blast bored narration and canned “heavenly” music over the speakers so loudly most visitors can’t help but speak up to be heard over it.
There is very little history to read otherwise, so I feel for the $5 a person entry fee they should have personal headsets for those interested in hearing the history to preserve the peace of the location, like many museums offer. Instead the whole set up feels very much intended for you to cough up your money to get in, make you feel like you’ve seen enough in a few short moments and then shuffle you straight in to a very chincy gift shop (there is no other way out)
This location is very beautiful, but those managing it do their best to detract at every step of your visit.
Unless you have a strong faith connection to this chapel, I would skip it. Admissions is $5 per person, and while the chapel is very pretty, it’s small and can be crowded. The audio recording about the history of the chapel and staircase just plays on a loop, so it’s hard to gauge where you are in the story etc. We enjoyed the (free) Basillica down the street much more.
Great place to visit! If your in santa fe and have spare time definitely go here first! Its only $3 a person.
It’s beautiful inside, and the history is awesome. For our kidsit was worth the visit and admission cost. But it’s a quick stop, if you have little kids who need to be entertained, this won’t do it.
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The Loretto Chapel
- Sun: 10:30 am - 5:00 pm
- Mon - Sat: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
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