The Loretto Chapel Staircase

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nodle

Cheesemonger
Administrator
This is quite an interesting story and I think it belongs in this forum.

According to legend, the nuns of the Loretto Chapel that were there when it was been built realized at some point that they had to find a way to build a staircase to connect the choir loft to the ground floor. They didn’t want the staircase to be big because it would take up too much space, so they went to the local carpenters but no one could provide a feasible solution.

According to the historical account, a short time later a man arrived and offered to do the job but he asked to be alone in the chapel for three months, and with only simple tools including a saw, T-square and a hammer, he built the ‘miraculous’ staircase. It is a spiral staircase making two complete 360 degrees rotations but without using a central pole and without using any nails, only wooden pegs. The bannister of the staircase is perfectly curved, a remarkable accomplishment considering the basic tools that were used. The shape of the helix is not a stable weight-supporting structure, and without the middle column it shouldn’t be able to withstand the weight of the people using the staircase.

When the man finished the staircase, he left without asking for a cent. The nuns tried to find him but they could not. They did not know who he was and where he got the wood from.

Later on, the manager of the privately owned chapel (1991-2006), Richard Lindsley, took a piece of wood from the staircase and sent it for analysis to find out what kind of wood it was. When the results came back, they showed that it was spruce, but of an unknown subspecies. This specific wood was very strong with molecules dense and square which is something that you usually find in trees that grow very slowly in very cold places – like Alaska. However there was no such wood in the area and no local trees grow in the Alpine tundra (approximately 2,000 to 3,000 meters) in the surrounding area. The closest place that he would find this density in trees was in Alaska, but of course back then transport was not the same as it is now and wood was not transported over such long distances.

The nuns of the Loretto Chapel attributed the staircase to a miracle, a divine event that seems to transcend the natural law, and they believed that the man who came to create the staircase was a man sent from heaven. While the account of the mysterious helix staircase of Loretto is a relatively modern-day legend associated with a miracle, reports of miracles go back thousands of years and can be found in virtually every religion and culture around the world.
 
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