One of the things that I never knew existed prior to this trip was “The miraculous stair” in the Loretto Chapel located in Sante Fe, New Mexico. This impressive staircase is is floating 2.5 turn spiral stair case made of laminated wood and dowels over 100 years ago. There are some disagreements as to who created it and how. The story playing overhead while we visited the Chapel was as follows:
The Sisters of St Loretto relate the story as follows: Needing a way to get up to the choir loft the nuns prayed for St Joseph’s intercession for nine straight days. On the day after their novena ended a shabby looking stranger appeared at their door. He told the nuns he would build them a staircase but that he needed total privacy and locked himself in the chapel for three months. He used a small number of primitive tools including a square, a saw and some warm water and constructed a spiral staircase entirely of non-native wood. The identity of the carpenter is not known for as soon as the staircase was finally finished he was gone. Many witnesses, upon seeing the staircase, feel it was constructed by St. Joseph himself, as a miraculous occurrence.
The resulting staircase is an impressive work of carpentry. It ascends twenty feet, making two complete revolutions up to the choir loft without the use of nails or apparent center support. It has been surmised that the central spiral of the staircase is narrow enough to serve as a central beam. Nonetheless there was no attachment unto any wall or pole in the original stairway, although in 1887 — 10 years after it was built — a railing was added and the outer spiral was fastened to an adjacent pillar. Instead of metal nails, the staircase was constructed using dowels or wooden pegs.
The floating staircase is easily my favorite “discovery” of the trip and I recommend the stop if you find yourself in the area.