This is such an incredible story!
In 1850, Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy of the Apostolic Vicariate of New Mexico, saw a need for Catholic girls’ education in his area, so he sent requests to religious Catholic teaching orders. The Sisters of Loretto responded to this call.
In 1853, the Sisters of Loretto opened a school for girls in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Twenty years later, they finally were able to hire the same architect as the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. He designed the sisters a beautiful, gothic-style chapel, then known as the Chapel of Our Lady of Light. It is now the Chapel of Loretto.
Here’s a photo of the beautiful Chapel of Loretto:
However, the architect died before building access to the choir loft. Due to little space, they concluded that a staircase would take up too much room, therefore, minimizing seating.
The Mysterious Legend
Legend says the sisters then invoked St. Joseph the Carpenter’s intercession through a novena. On the ninth day, a mysterious man looking for work arrived on their doorstep with only donkey, a hammer and a carpenter’s square.
According to the Loretto Chapel’s official website, the man only used “simple tools and wooden pegs. The rare wood is not native to the American Southwest.” They know he used a type of spruce wood, but no one knows where it came from or how the carpenter got it.
Legend also says that while building the staircase over the course of three months, no one saw him enter or leave the chapel. Once he completed it, he disappeared without payment or a thank you.
The sisters also contacted lumber stores in the area, but were unable to retrieve any open accounts for the supplies he supposedly purchased.
Here’s a photo of the miraculous staircase:
Here’s the chapel’s description of the staircase’s current state:
“The staircase has two complete 360-degree turns with no center pole for structural support. The entire weight of the staircase rests on the bottom stair.
“The banisters were added approximately ten years later due to the difficulty of climbing the tall, tapered stairs with no railing.
“The two small brackets that can be seen on the outside connecting the stairs to the wall and pillar were added in the mid 20th century in order to provide more support and protect the staircase from negative effects due to vibrations from passing cars and trucks.
“Unfortunately, rather than helping the structural integrity of the staircase, the modern brackets damaged the sides of it by preventing the natural spring-like movement of the staircase while in use. The underside of the stairs were originally open, but was filled in with a horse hair and lime mixture painted to look like wood.”
The website also says that some believe that St. Joseph built this amazing structure. Others believe St. Joseph sent someone to do it. The website adds that the staircase still “perplexes experts today.”
Either way though, this mystery is a miracle!