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.”