Traditional Catholic Loretto Chapel And St. Joseph’s Miraculous Staircase, Santa Fe New Mexico

Traditional Catholicism is not only sacred, but also beautiful.  But it has always come from God’s divine force, men and women willing to do great things for God, sacrifice and praying with faith for miracles.

St.-JosephThe famous miraculous staircase can be seen by everyone in the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe New Mexico.  The name probably comes from the Our Lady of Loreto connected with the Holy Family’s house of Loreto Italy.  This holy house is where both Mary and Jesus were conceived in Nazareth.  It was miraculously transported from Nazareth to Dalmatia in the year 1291.  Then in the year 1294, to be protected from the muslim occupation of Dalmatia, it was again miraculously transported to the little town of Loreto in northeast Italy.

A priest was healed after Our Lady of Loreto (Feast Day Dec 10) appeared to him and told him; 

Know that the house which has been brought up of late to your land, is the same in which I was born and brought up. Here, at the Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel, I conceived the Creator of all things. Here the Word of the Eternal Father became Man. The Altar which was brought with this house was consecrated by Peter, Prince of the Apostles.

“This house has come from Nazareth to your shores by the power of God, of Whom nothing is impossible. And now, in order that you may bear testimony of all these things, be healed. Your unexpected and sudden recovery shall confirm the truth of what I have declared to you.”

Before we even get to the great and awesome miracle, I want to tell a little about the missionary spirit that religious use to have like the Loretto Sisters who had the chapel and staircase built.

In May 1852, 6 religious left Kentucky to go to Santa Fe.  But on the way the mother superior came down with cholera and died.  Because of this, they were kicked off the steamer.  Two more came down with cholera and only one was able to reach Santa Fe (along with the 3 other sisters).  On the way, by boat and covered wagon, they experienced broken axles, wheels and fear, as they saw bones of other travels.

Once they arrived they began in a one room adobe building.  Santa Fe was mostly made up of Mexicans and Indians.  With Bishop Lamy support, they began to found a convent and school.  Twenty years later, on July 25, 1873, under the patronage of St. Joseph, the beautiful Chapel Of Our Lady of Light was begun.

After the chapel and choir loft had been built, the problem of building a staircase, that would fit in the chapel, was discovered.  All the local carpenters told Mother Magdalen that it was impossible.

photoSo the sisters decided to make a novena (nine day prayer) to St. Joseph for help.  Exactly on the 9th day of the novena, a gray haired man with a donkey came to the convent asking to help the sisters build the staircase.  He only had a saw, a hammer, a T square and a tub to heat water to bend the wood.

He worked during the Christmas season of 1879.  Before he could be paid he vanished.  There was no bill for wood at the only lumber yard there.  They didn’t even know what the sisters were talking about when they went to see if they owed money for the wood.

photoThe staircase is a complete mystery even today by architects, engineers and wood experts.  It makes two complete 360 degree turns as it winds up to the choir loft.  It is made with only wood pegs and no nails.  It has no inner pole to support it, (as is usually the case).  It has exactly 33 steps.

It was constructed with no banister.  The banister was added later and two attachments to the wall of the chapel has been made.  Each stringer is of the exact perfect curve.  There are nine on the outside and seven on the inside.

photoIn 1996, the wood was analyzed to find out what trees it came from and from what part of the world.  It is not wood native to New Mexico.

The sisters of Loretto sold the chapel to a private family.  Thank God that this happened before the sacrilegious “Wreck a Model” took place to the chapel.  It is still in the beautiful traditional Catholic architecture from before Vatican II.  So it still has only the original altar facing God and the beautiful traditional stain glass windows and statues.

photoRight now the chapel is considered a museum where you can rent it to have a wedding in.  Fr. Terry Brennan told me, that the people who own the chapel, are willing to sell it to someone who would be willing to use it again for Catholic masses.  I am not sure how much it would sell for.  But I was told that the income from tourist and weddings earns over three million dollars a year.

photoMaybe one of you know someone who would be willing to buy this chapel to return it to Catholicism and for the Latin Mass only in Santa Fe.  Right now, Fr. Brennan offers the traditional Latin Mass every Sunday at 2pm at San Miquel Mission, (right downtown Santa Fe).

So, we need to pray to St. Joseph for more miracles.  First he helped the sisters get to Santa Fe.  Then he built the staircase.  Then he saved the chapel from being destroyed by modernist.  Now we need to ask him to get it back for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.