This chapel was begun in 1873 and finished in 1878. It was fashioned after Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. In fact, the stained glass was bought from the DuBois Studio in Paris. It is most famous for the Miraculous Staircase, which was constructed sometime between 1877 and 1881, and took at least 6 months to build. The staircase features two 360-degree turns with no visible means of support. No nails were used; only wooden pegs.
The Loretto Chapel is located about a block SE of the plaza, behind the La Fonda Hotel. As the good Sisters of Loretto were completing the construction of their tall chapel, they realized that the stairs to the choir balcony would either be too steep for them to climb or would need to begin outside the building! Legend has it that a stranger showed up at the door and offered to solve their problem. This carpenter built a spiral staircase with a floorboard made of a single piece of wood soaked in kerosene and slowly twisted to make two complete 360 degree turns. It is held together by wooden pegs. It has no central support column, but instead depends upon a spring-like suspension to displace gravity and support itself. The carpenter left without accepting payment. Despite some recent historical clues into the identity of the carpenter, locals still believe that it was actually Saint Joseph come to the assistance of the Sisters. This is my single favorite tourist sight in all Santa Fe.