Church of the Week: Loretto Chapel

Tiny Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was built in 1873. While not the oldest and certainly not the largest church in Santa Fe, it is one of the loveliest and most noteworthy, partly because it is thought to be the first gothic structure west of the Mississippi and also because of its striking "miraculous staircase."

The church, fashioned after the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, was built to serve the Sisters of Novena. However, the story is told that upon completion, a serious and obvious flaw was immediately discovered: there was no way to get to the choir loft in the rear of the chapel except by climbing a ladder.

As the story goes, an unknown carpenter showed up and volunteered to build a staircase. The result was this beautiful spiral stair, which has no visible means of support, other than itself. The handrails were a later addition. The staircase has been standing for more than 100 years.

The lovely Robin and I visited this church on our first trip to New Mexico together, in 1999.

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