New Mexico is a state that, on the surface, may not look like much more than barren stretches of desert and scrub. Dig a little deeper and you will find one of the most fascinating places on earth. We spent several days in New Mexico touring national parks and actually could have spent weeks doing it. But there is more than just national parks.
We altered our course a bit to make a side trip into Santa Fe, and I was glad we did. It is a place I remember going to as a child of about 8 years old with my family. It’s a quaint little town, a bit touristy but also a bit artsy. Located 7,000 feet above sea level in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this town has beautiful, crisp air and gets over 300 days of sunshine a year. They have a very Western-looking town square of adobe buildings where Native Americans sell their wares.
There is also an interesting little place called the Loretto Chapel. What makes the chapel interesting is, of all things, a staircase. When the Loretto Chapel was completed, there was no way to access the choir loft 22 feet above. Carpenters were called in to address the problem, but they all concluded access to the loft would have to be via ladder, as a staircase would interfere with the interior space of the small chapel. To find a solution to the problem, the Sisters of the Chapel made a novena to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of prayer, a man showed up at the chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Months later, the elegant circular staircase was completed and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks. After searching for the man (an ad even ran in the local newspaper) and finding no trace of him, some concluded that he was St. Joseph himself. The staircase has two 360-degree turns and has no visible means of support. Also, it is said that the staircase was built without nails - only wooden pegs. Questions also surround the number of stair risers compared to the height of the choir loft and about the types of wood and other materials used in the stairway's construction. They even have engineering reports from several universities saying the staircase is impossible to build. It is very strong, too, as they have a picture of about 30 choir members on it at the same time. Pictures cannot portray the engineering feat of this staircase. Anyone who has done any carpentry will be amazed.
The chapel is located right off the main square and is hard to miss. They are open from 9am to 6pm during the summer and from 9am to 5pm in the winter. There is a small entrance fee and a neat little gift shop - it’s a fun little attraction.