I have had the privilege of seeing the spiral staircase at the Loretto Chapel in Sante Fe, New Mexico.  I borrowed these photos from the internet. The ones I took just didn’t do the beauty of this masterpiece justice.  It truly was breathtaking and its history made being there even more precious.

Spiral stairs before the railing was added years after its completion.

Spiral stairs before the railing was added years after its completion.

In 1872, the building of a convent chapel for the Sisters of Loretto, to be named Our Lady of Light Chapel, was commissioned.

In 1872, the building of a convent chapel for the Sisters of Loretto, to be named Our Lady of Light Chapel, was commissioned.

The builder of the Loretto Chapel died suddenly, before a stairway had been constructed to the choir loft. A regular stairway would be too large for the little chapel, and the sisters felt a ladder would be too dangerous. So they prayed to St. Joseph for intercession.
As the story goes, after nine days of praying, a stranger arrived looking for work. He told the nuns he would build the staircase, but that he required total privacy. So, for 3 months, he was locked in the chapel. Then, suddenly, he was gone, never having collected his pay. No one knew where the lumber came from, no one had seen lumber delivered.
The staircase which makes two 360 degree spirals, rises 20 feet, and has no visible means of support. It was made using wooden pegs, and has 33 steps.
The sisters offered a reward for the man’s identity, but no one came forward.
It was considered a miracle, and the sisters suspected it was St. Joseph himself who built their staircase.

 

One of my favorite books, “Half Broke Horses,” by Jeannette Walls, refers to the little chapel where her grandmother was sent when she was 13 to learn to be a proper young woman.