Things To Do In Santa Fe – Visit Loretto Chapel – Santa Fe, NM’s Amazing Chapel with The Miraculous Staircase

Visitors to Santa Fe, NM, are rarely left with nothing to do. We here at the Zia Diner highly encourage our customers to visit the Loretto Chapel, home of The Miraculous Staircase.

The Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, NM, famous for its winding handmade stair case and gothic architecture, was built in large part due to the fact that Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy started writing letters in 1850 asking for priests, brothers and nuns to come to the Santa Fe, NM, area to grow the Catholic faith and set up an educational system. In response to his plea the Sisters of Loretto sent 7 nuns who all agreed to make the trip, hard and dangerous as it would be, to Santa Fe. During the trip the group became beset with a cholera epidemic. The Mother Superior died and one of the nuns was too ill to keep going so she returned to Kentucky. The group had it hard, traveling by wagon in poor weather and Indian territory.

The Sisters made it through to Santa Fe during 1852. They started the Academy of Our Lady of Light (Loretto) in 1853. From the schools meager beginnings it grew year after year, finally reaching enrollment of just over three hundred students. During those early years the nuns and the community dealt with illnesses like tuberculosis and smallpox as well as a short occupation during the Civil War by Santa Fe by Confederates.

During this period Archbishop Lamy hired architect Antoine Mouly from Paris, France to design and build the other famous Catholic church in Santa Fe, NM, St. Francis Cathedral. The cathedral took ten years to build. During the construction period Archbishop Lamy highly suggested that the sisters hire Mr. Mouly and his son to build the chapel they had dreamed of having as part of their school for so long. The sisters put together their funds from inheritances, which amounted to the dollar amount need to pay to have the chapel built.

Work on the Loretto Chapel started in 1873. Building materials used to build the chapel were purchased from quarries around the Santa Fe area including sandstone and volcanic stone.

In Loretto Chapel there is beautiful stained glass throughout. The glass comes from far away Paris, France, made by the famous Dubois Studio. The glass came by ship to New Orleans, Louisiana, then by boat up the Mississippi river to St. Louis, MO, and finally by wagon by way of the Old Santa Fe Trail all the way to Santa Fe for installation into the Chapel. The Chapel was finally finished in 1878.

The staircase that is so famous located at the back part of the Loretto Chapel was built during the period of 1877 to 1881. Known as The Miraculous Staircase, this famous set of steps makes 2 complete 360 degree turns, does not show any nails were used to build it and it shows no type of support that can be seen holding it up.

The school closed in 1968 with most of the students transferring over to St. Michael’s High School which before hand was an all-boy’s school. The property was sold during 1971 at which time the Loretto Chapel was no longer considered by informal decree Catholic. Now-a-days it is museum visited by tourists and locals year round.