In 1850 after the Vicariate of New Mexico was established under the first Bishop of the Territory, Bishop Jean Baptiste sent a plea to Catholic teaching orders to open a school for girls. A group of holy sisters, the Sisters of Loretto replied and sent six sisters to open the Loretto academy. Since the Territory of New Mexico was full of Spanish-speaking citizens, the Sisters of Loretto learned the Spanish language and finally arrived in Santa Fe to open their school in 1853.
By 1873, the Sisters began the construction of a Chapel. The gothic-styled holy sanctuary you see today was built by the same French architect and builders as the Saint Francis Cathedral Basilica in Santa Fe and was inspired by the Sainte Chapelle in Paris.
Now, why is this considered one of Santa Fe's most instagrammable spots? Is it because of the miraculous helix-shaped spiral staircase? The legend behind the mysterious builder? Step in and find out for yourself, and take more than a few snapshots, of course.
The staircase contains two complete 360 turns and, at first glance, may look like a normal staircase. The strange thing about it? It's held together by wooden pegs and lacks a central pole, leaving the entire weight of the staircase resting on the bottom stair. I know, strange—it gets stranger. Legend says, the Sisters of Loretto prayed a nine-day novena to St. Joseph (Patron Saint of Carpenters) after the architect passed and on the final day of the novena, was met with a surprise—a mysterious carpenter. The carpenter, with only simple tools and wooden pegs, built the miraculous staircase. Many people believe it was St. Joseph himself that appeared that day, others say, a man sent by St. Joseph. Perhaps, a mystery never to be solved. The legend continues 'till this day and is the reason the Loretto Chapel is one of Santa Fe's most intriguing attractions.
It's open 364 days a year except for Christmas and is home to ongoing visitors intrigued by all the little mysteries of the Loretto Chapel. Take a look at their calendar to check out days to visit!
Cover image by Camerafiend is licensed under (CC By - SA 3.0). Image found through Wikimedia Commons. Information made available on lorettochapel.com.