In 1873, construction on the Chapel of Our Lady of Light in New Mexico hit a roadblock. The beautiful gothic style chapel had no staircase to get from the main level to the choir loft. The original architect had died, and his plans for a staircase were unknown.
The sisters of Lorreto, who had commissioned the chapel, were distraught. They consulted with several architects and carpenters, but the answer was always the same: it couldn’t be done. There just wasn’t enough space to build a staircase to the choir loft. They were going to have to accept that they couldn’t access the choir loft.
Not quite ready to give up, the sisters said a novena to St. Joseph, the master carpenter, asking him to help them find a builder with a solution. As soon as the sisters finished the novena, a man arrived at their doorstep saying that could build them a staircase—his only request was to work in complete privacy. The sisters agreed, and the man locked himself in the chapel to work. Some say it only took him one night, while others say it took months. However long it took to build, the staircase the man crafted for the sisters was nothing short of incredible.
The man departed just as mysteriously as he had arrived, leaving behind one of the most marvelous pieces of woodworking ever seen. The staircase has two 360-degree spirals in it and was built with no central support, resting only on its base. It was built without nails—just wood pegs. Carpenters and scientists have said that the construction is nearly impossible and shouldn’t be able to support anyone walking on it. Yet the staircase stands solid to this day.
The chapel has become a private museum now, but it is a must-see if you’re ever in New Mexico.
And who was the mysterious builder? Well, the Sisters of Loretto were confident that their mystery man was none other than St. Joseph himself. Learn more about the life and virtue of the quiet humble carpenter God chose to be the adoptive father of His son by reading The Truth About St. Joseph by Fr. Maurice Meschler.