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.