Santa Fe, New Mexico: Miraculous Gravity-Defying Staircase

Made of wood that supposedly doesn't exist, in a way that baffles scientists. Built by a mysterious carpenter -- St. Joseph, perhaps, or possibly one even more famous.

Loretto Chapel

207 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM
One block southeast of the downtown plaza.
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Miraculous Gravity-Defying Staircase

Cost to get in is $4. Miraculous or mundane in its origins, the staircase is a sight to behold. The chapel itself is intricate and worth a look.

[Nick S., 03/24/2018]

Chapel staircase.

Santa Fe's Loretto Chapel - Miracle Staircase

The chapel was built by French and Spanish artisans who modeled the chapel after Sainte Chapelle in Paris. The story is that the sisters prayed for a carpenter to build them a stairway to the choir loft. An unknown carpenter came along and built the spiral stairway without the use of hammer or nails. He left before he could be paid and no one is quite sure who he was or how he completed the masterpiece. Engineers still marvel at this carpenters accomplishment.

The Chapel is quite small and the tour takes almost no time. Be sure to stay the watch the video which fully explains the history of the chapel.

As I live in Santa Fe, we take guests there on a yearly basis. None of our guest have ever been disappointed. Forget the "mini-mall" entrance some have described. It's a small enclosure added to the side of the original building which also houses a gift shop -- the only difference being you do enter from the side of the church via this small area as opposed to entering through the front double doors as in most churches. Once inside the chapel itself, this area does not detract from the original structure.

[Marilyn Mazorol, 07/29/2007]

Latest theory about the staircase: It was built by immigrant woodworker Francois-Jean "Frenchy" Rochas, who was later killed in a dispute over water rights by Oliver Lee, a powerful local politician and rancher. The "miracle" story was allowed to flourish so that everyone would forget about Francois... and they have.

Lorretto Chapel's Miraculous Staircase

Two 360 degree turns, no center support, no reason (architecturally) to remain standing. Costs about $2.50 to get in to see it. Beautiful chapel with interesting history of its own in addition to the stairs. Made of a wood that doesn't exist anywhere, according to information in gift shop. Take a look, stare in awe, hustle through the gift shop and contemplate the possibility of miracles.

[Mike and Geneva, 08/15/2005]
Lorretto Chapel's Miraculous Staircase

Site of the "Miraculous Staircase". Supposedly built by St. Joseph and, yes, a hotel was built next to it and they were linked by some weird mall-type thing. The chapel itself was bought by a family about twenty-five years ago, and they're responsible for the hotel and the pr.

The stairs themselves were built by the mystery man, but the gaudy railing (what most associate with the chapel) was added later by a real person.

It's true that no one's allowed to walk up the staircase except those who paid a big sum to get married there. If you rent the chapel to get married you're allowed to actually get on it with your bride/groom and get photos taken. I had to take my shoes off because I was scared I'd trip and break the thing in that big dress. My husband and I are not small people either and I had nightmares the night before that we'd hurt the miraculous staircase -- and get seriously sued. It was kinda wobbly but the wood was really smooth. We distributed photos of us on that staircase with the christmas cards that was too funny.

[Noelle Dempsey, 10/29/2000]
Stairs That Jesus (or Joseph) Maybe Built

There is a church in Santa Fe which has a spiral staircase. The wood which the staircase isn't native to the area and the staircase was supposed to be impossible to be able to be constructed because of its design and because of the materials used in the construction.

We saw the spiral staircase in the church about 5 years ago in downtown Santa Fe, but I don't recall the name of the church. I do remember however looking at the construction of it and thinking to myself "how in the hell did the carpenter build that?". There was only one man who designed and built the staircase with wood that was unknown to the people in New Mexico.

[Loreece, 03/04/1999]

Our notes on the Loretto Chapel, 219 Old Santa Fe Trail: Built in the 1870s, the chapel was nearly complete when it became apparent the choir loft stairs would not fit. The sisters' prayed for help and were answered when a mysterious carpenter arrived, built the "miraculous" staircase, and then disappeared without being paid. The staircase is a double helix with no visible support. It's 23 feet tall and makes two 360 degree spirals. You can't climb it anymore. Oddest part of the thing is that it is physically connected to a Best Western -- The Inn At Loretto -- by an indoor mall of gift stores and souvenir shoppes.

Nearby Offbeat Places

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In the region:
Hand Mail Box and Rock Lizard, Santa Fe, NM - 7 mi.

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