Gothic Meets Southwest
Located at 207 Old Santa Fe Trail, the Loretto Chapel looks distinctly out of place as Santa Fe's only miniature Gothic cathedral. A curious study in the allocation of resources, The Loretto Chapel is very tall, very ornate, was very expensive to build (except the staircase, that was free) and seats a sparse 129 people.
Everyone comes here to see the "Miraculous Staircase" which is, in fact, miraculous but the rest of the chapel is pretty neat too. The staircase proves to be difficult to photograph due to the crowd of looky-loos gathered around it at all times. So, while they do that, I cruise around and see the other stuff.
Construction of the Chapel began in 1873 and was completed in 1878. The construction was wrought with various setbacks including, but not limited to, the premature death of the architect and at some point near the end of the project it began to dawn on people that there was no way to reach the choir loft.
The nuns were not hip to the idea of a fire station pole or a rock climbing wall so they set about looking for a solution. After praying for ten straight days a scraggly fellow showed up leading a donkey and carrying nothing but a t-square, saw, and hammer. He said he had come to build the staircase. It took him six months to complete and what he created was both awesome and terrifying.
A spiral staircase rising 20 feet with no nails, no center column, and no handrail, that makes two complete 360 degree turns and resembles strand of DNA. Did I mention no handrail? Obviously, the the staircase was far too scary to climb with no handrail so the braver nuns scooted to and from the choir loft on their hands and knees while others "miraculously" developed laryngitis and opted for janitorial duty.
The handrail was added later.
For more information about the history of the Loretto Chapel, visit their website here.
All of these photos are shot with my Motorola Moto X4 and edited with Snapseed.
The stained glass windows in the Loretto Chapel are incredible! They were purchased in 1876 from the DuBois Studio in Paris. Upon completion, the glass was sent from Paris to New Orleans by ship and then transported to St. Louis, MO by paddle boat. From there, the windows completed their journey via covered wagon on the Old Santa Trail to the chapel. With bubble wrap yet to be invented, I can't help but wonder how much glass may have been damaged in transit and I think the chapel is lucky to have received any windows at all. And now, 142 years later, they are still amazing!
Try as I might to get the obvious wide-angle photo of the chapel interior featuring the staircase, the number of looky-loos on this day were making it impossible. Gathered around it like pigeons waiting for french fries at the door of McDonald's, they were clearly unconcerned about ruining my shot.
After several impatient moments, I noticed that no one was standing behind the stairs by the confessional booth. Well eureka, lucky break for me!
If you are planning to visit Loretto Chapel on your next trip to Santa Fe, be sure to stop in at San Miguel Chapel. Located only a block away from Loretto Chapel and originally constructed in 1610, San Miguel Chapel is the oldest church in the continental United States.
I am DeAnna Vincent, fine art and portrait photographer in Los Lunas, New Mexico. These are the photos from my everyday adventures.