The Staircase Mystery

by Michael Berry on February 10, 2016

I love mysteries like this.

Unquestionably, the most unusual staircase and the one with the most mysterious history is the wooden spiral staircase of the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The brick and stone chapel was constructed in 1877 using plans drawn by French architect Antoine Mouly, who died suddenly soon after construction began. It wasn’t until construction was nearly complete that the builders realized that no provision bad been made for a staircase leading to the choir loft. Due to the chapel’s small size. a standard staircase would have been too large.

Faced with the problem, the nuns prayed for nine straight days for the Lord to send a solution. On the ninth day a shabby looking stranger appeared at their door with a donkey and a tool box, identifying himself only as a carpenter looking for work. He told the nuns he would build them a staircase, but to do so he needed total privacy. He locked himself in the chapel with only a small number of primitive tools including a square, a saw and some warm water. When his work was finished three months later, he was gone before the nuns could thank him or give him his pay. When they entered the chapel and saw the staircase he had built they were astounded.

The staircase is an impressive work of masterful carpentry. Rising twenty two feet from the floor, it makes two complete turns up to the choir loft without the use of nails or any center support. It is made of wood not found anywhere in New Mexico or in the entire region. The construction is flawless and perfectly fitted using only dowels and wooden pegs. The stairs have 33 steps, the number of years that Jesus lived on earth. The nuns felt it was a miracle, and some believed the carpenter was St Joseph himself.

The mystery of the Loretto Chapel staircase has never been satisfactorily solved. No one knows who the carpenter was, where he came from or where he got his lumber. There were no reports of-‘anyone seeing lumber delivered or even seeing the man come and go during the months of construction.

Over the years many have flocked to the Loretto Chapel to see the Miraculous Staircase, which has been the subject of many articles, TV specials, and movies including “Unsolved Mysteries” and the television movie titled “The Staircase.”

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous February 21, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Michael I like you really enjoy mysteries of this nature. It is another good example if we keep the attitude of expectancy (prayer, positive thinking both of which I adhere) then the miraculous can happen. Faith in yourself and God can do wonders in your life.


Michael Berry February 27, 2011 at 12:25 am

Right on Steve. I loved it especially when you said faith in yourself because that’s where it all starts. Thanks for your comments.

Ryan Martin February 22, 2011 at 11:03 pm

That is an amazing story Michael! I have never heard it before, but that is definitely a beautiful staircase with a lot of mystery surrounding it. Thanks for sharing.

Michael Berry February 27, 2011 at 12:26 am

Ryan I also had never heard it when my wife stumbled across it is a paper she was reading.

Willena Flewelling February 27, 2011 at 9:36 am

That is an amazing story! I’ve never heard it before either. Interesting conclusions people have come to, as they’ve puzzled over it. I’m guessing that’s one mystery that will remain unsolved.

Willena Flewelling

Michael Berry March 3, 2011 at 10:57 pm

Yes it is Willena I had not heard it myself until a few days ago. Thanks for your comments.


Anonymous February 27, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Michael, that was a GREAT story! Thanks for sharing it. Just goes to show when you ask for something never judge the answer. 🙂

Michael Berry March 3, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Yes it is. Thanks for your comment.


Candie Rossler March 17, 2011 at 3:50 am

I’ve been reading about this story a lot lately. Apparently, an amateur historian suggests that a local actually made the staircase. Upon further inspection, it turns out that this woman doesn’t have a lot of proof to back up her theory. It’s really amazing how you can make a spiral staircase with only 3 items, no kits, without a center pillar or even nails!

Michael Berry March 21, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Yes it is Candie. I love stories like this. It certainly makes you think.

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