Loretto Chapel

Loretto Chapel is a special place most visitors have on their checklist when they visit Santa Fe. Located on Old Santa Fe Trail and built in 1873, Loretto Chapel is rumored to be built by St. Joseph himself (the patron saint of carpenters) and has long been famed for its "Magic Staircase" and stunning Gothic-style architecture. The original design of the Loretto Chapel was based on Paris's Saint Chapelle, a Gothic Catholic chapel built in 1246 during the middle ages by Saint Louis, the King of France. As the story goes, the initial  Loretto building was originally established as a school for girls in the early frontier town of Santa Fe and the chapel was built afterward.

Loretto Chapel can be done as a side trip during your holiday. Loretto Chapel is open in the summer from 9am to 6pm Monday to Saturday and 10:30am-5pm on Sundays. In the winter season Loretto Chapel is open from 9am top 5pm and on Sundays from 10:30am to 5pm. Admission is $2 per person and free for children under 6 years old. The chapel is conveniently located 2 blocks south of the Palace of Governors. From San Miguel Mission take the Old Santa Fe Trail north across the river.

Loretto Chapel was built in 1853 and opened as the Academy of Our Lady of Light (aka Loretto) and over 20 years the day and boarding school enjoyed continued success. By 1870 the Sisters who ran the girls' school felt it was missing a well-needed chapel and so began fund-raising. Land was secured and the construction of Loretto Chapel New Mexico began in 1873.

The Loretto Chapel New Mexico was built from stone that was quarried from various spots around the town of Santa Fe. Sandstone was used to build the walls and permeable volcanic rock made up the ceiling. Both materials were laboriously hauled to town by wagons as were the two ornate stain glass windows that are found just inside. The stained glass was created in Paris, brought by ship to New Orleans, went up the Mississipi River to St. Louis and from there was taken the rest of the way along the Old Santa Fe Trail to the Loretto Chapel New Mexico

Loretto Chapel New Mexico has been a revered destination over the years and attracts many tourists, especially ones curious about the seemingly "Magic" Loretto Chapel Staircase. Architects say that from the appearance of the Loretto Chapel staircase it should have come crashing down the moment anyone attempted to climb the stairs. The staircase was built without nails and was held in place by wooden pegs alone. It has two 360 degree turns with no railing and no clear means of support. It's an engineering marvel of a free-standing spiral staircase and legend has it that it was built quickly overnight by an unknown carpenter in answer to the nuns' prayers. The original design of the chapel was stunning but had one inherent flaw-there was no way to get to the second level choir loft! The staircase was erected and the man who built it left without seeking payment or even leaving his name, leaving the project as a mysterious and to this day, unsolved mystery

Many believe the Loretto Chapel Staircase was built by St. Joesph himself. The chapel's curator Reverend Bill Brokaw says there are actually about 32 others claiming their fathers or grandfathers built the Loretto Chapel staircase but says no matter who actually constructed it was a miracle that the nuns' prayers were answered.

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