Loretto Chapel Staircase in Santa Fe, NM – Miracle or Money Maker?

Outside of the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico

The Loretto Chapel, once a Roman Catholic church, is a private museum and wedding venue in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The main attraction of the chapel is its storied, helix-shaped, spiral staircase. The stairs to the choir loft have been the subject of books and the 1998 movie, The Staircase

the miracle stairs at the Loretto Chapel

The “Miracle Staircase” at the Loretto Chapel

The Miracle
   The French architect, Antoine Mouly, died unexpectedly before the church construction was finished in 1878. After the chapel was completed, the builders noticed there were no stairs to the loft. Carpenters concluded that the only way to access the choir loft without interfering with seating was to use a ladder. At this point, according to the story on the Loretto Chapel website, “…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”. No one could ever find the man and legend has it that it was actually St. Joseph who built the “miracle stairs”. “The design considerations still perplex experts today”.

The Skeptics

   An obituary in the New Mexican names Francois-Jean “Frenchy” Rochas as the builder of “the handsome staircase in the Loretto chapel”. Rochas died in anonymity, shot by unknown assailants, in December 1894. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loretto_Chapel)

An article on Snopes.com concludes, “…nothing about Loretto’s design or manufacture evidences any sign of the miraculous”.

In a Washington Post article entitled ,”The Loretto Chapel staircase: A lesson in physics not miracles”, a master carpenter states, “It’s obvious to me that there is nothing miraculous holding this staircase in position”.

My Conclusion

I’m with the skeptics, but I still think the Loretto Chapel is a beautiful Gothic style church in a great city. My $3 entrance fee was well spent. I do feel bad for the Carpenter who actually built the stairs and isn’t acknowledged for his craftsmanship though.

What’s your take? Miracle or money maker?

Entrance to the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Entrance to the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Inside of the Loretto Chapel

Interior of the Loretto Chapel

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