There are thousands of beautiful churches and centers for worship around the United States, but few rival a small chapel in the heart of New Mexico. History, mystery, and beautiful architecture all meet at the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe. It’s the perfect spot to cool off during a walking tour of the city and learn about the unknown identity of the man who built the stairs that defy physics. Packed with plenty of history and tradition, this former Catholic church is now one of the hottest non-denominational wedding destinations in the Southwest. After you explore this fantastic site, head out and see all the other wonderful places that make Santa Fe a unique city. If you need a trusty list of places to see and things to do, request access to our free Vacation Guide!
Why Visit Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe?
The Vicariate of New Mexico, Jean Baptiste Lamy, ordered the completion of Loretto Chapel in connection with a Catholic women’s education center built in 1853 for the Sisters of Mercy. Construction of the church began in 1873 and ended in 1878. The gothic-style architecture stood out among the adobe homes and buildings surrounding it at the time. Unfortunately, the architect died before finishing the stairs leading up to the choir loft. Without the appropriate supplies, building knowledge, and experienced architects in the area, the Sisters of Loretto prayed a nine-day novena (a series of special prayers and services) to St. Joseph, the Patron Saint of Carpenters.
On the ninth day of the novena, a man appeared with only a hammer and a carpenter’s square and built what is now known as the Miraculous Staircase. The carpenter used wood that is not native to the American Southwest and left without asking for payment or even mentioning his name. Some believe that it was St. Joseph himself who answered the prayers of the Sisters of Loretto. The staircase features two complete 360 degree turns in a helix shape without a center support pole or any structural supports, with the bottom stair bearing the entire weight of the structure. Several modifications attempted to provide extra support, but it only threw off the natural spring of the wood. The mystery of the staircase adds to the legend of this magnificent church.
The gothic-style architecture is unique to the Santa Fe area. While it’s difficult to peel your eyes away from the architectural marvel of the Miraculous Staircase, the rest of Loretto Chapel is absolutely gorgeous. Stained glass windows adorn the walls of the building along with beautifully crafted scenes from the Stations of the Cross. The tall ceilings make the quaint chapel even more charming and bright.
Where is Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe?
The Loretto Chapel sits just two blocks from Santa Fe Plaza and is less than a 15-minute walk from El Farolito. It’s proximity to most of the top sights in Santa Fe make it an ideal stop along your walking tour of one of the most unique cities in the country. The chapel is open 364 days a year, only closing on Christmas.
Tip: While it is open all but one day of the year, Loretto Chapel hosts over 100 weddings every year which can interfere with regular operating hours.
Your comfortable and Southwestern-themed room at El Farolito awaits you after a day of exploring Santa Fe’s unbelievable treasures. Our authentic guest rooms feature excellent accommodations for a convenient and comfortable stay. Our prime location gives you easy access to all of the best attractions that Santa Fe has to offer.