Amid our walking tour of downtown Santa Fe, we detoured to take in Loretto Chapel. The last time we were here, I foolishly left my camera in the car. This time, I made sure I had it.
Loretto Chapel is famous for its circular stairway which is believed by many to have been constructed by St. Joseph, himself. Regardless of the validity of the claim, there is no disputing that the stairway is a marvel, not only for its time, but even now.
According to legend, the architect and builder of the chapel both overlooked the access to the choir loft until the chapel was nearly complete. None of the options to correct this were acceptable to the nuns who had commissioned the chapel, so they began a novena to St. Joseph, asking for a solution to this problem.
On the final day of the novena, a mysterious stranger appeared out of the desert and built the beautiful staircase, then disappeared without even collecting his pay.
The 1998 movie, “The Staircase”, starring Barbara Hershey and William L. Peterson offers an entertaining version of this legend and is available through the chapel gift shop, as well as other retailers.
The Miraculous Staircase, now over 130 years old, has been closed off for many years. The wear and tear of so many tourists ascending and descending its steps would surely destroy it if it wasn’t.
Fanciful windmills grace the gardens of the chapel, while the sandstone and volcanic rock of its construction allow the beautiful stained glass windows to stand out. The interior of the chapel is simple and serene. Although the Blessed Sacrament is no longer housed here, it retains an atmosphere of holiness. Voices are hushed and photographers are almost stealthy.
Sitting still in the quiet of the chapel, I relax and breathe in the prayers of those holy women who, less than 50 years ago, still knelt here, received the sacraments and instructed the daughters of Santa Fe in the joy of the Catholic faith. I wonder what it would have been like to be privileged to climb that staircase and sing in the choir. I believe, whoever he was, the hand of God worked through the hands of the man who built the Staircase.