Loretto chapel in New Mexico
According to legend, this chapel in Santa Fe New Mexico was built to serve Loretto Academy, a school located at the end of the Sante Fe trail, established by a handful of nuns in 1850.
According to legend, the chapel was completed in 1873 with a choir loft but no way to get up to the choir loft. The nuns ran out of money and prayed for help and (like the movie "Lilies of the field") a carpenter appeared and built a staircase and then left without accepting payment. Since "Lilies of the Field" took place in New Mexico, it's very likely that the stranger at Loretto chapel might have inspired the movie. The concept of what he looked like was like St Joseph, the adopted father of Jesus but of course, "Lilies of the field" suggests that in reality, he could have been any color or creed.
The staircase was apparently built only using wooden pegs (no nails) thus confounding architects who have studied it. There are definitely questions as to how it was designed.
It has two 360 turns and no visible means of support. The staircase was completed sometime between 1873 and 1881, and took 6 months to build. Pious visitors assume the builder was St Joseph himself (to whom the nuns had made a Novena i.e. a 9 day prayer - to help them).
Likely the truth about the identity of the carpenter (probably merely someone traveling through just there to do a good deed) is less romantic than legend suggests, however, the mysteries of its architectural construction of the staircase were enough to intrigue CBS into making a movie about it called "The Staircase" in 1998.
In 1963, Loretto Academy closed and in 1971, Our Lady of Loretto chapel was de-consecrated as a Catholic church.
Today it is maintained privately, as a museum and also used for weddings although as the photo above suggests, from time to time, the chapel hosts concerts and probably still an occasional Catholic Mass (although is open to all denominations).
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