Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Spiral Staircase of Santa Fe-A Miracle?

In the 17th century when America was still in its infancy, the Catholic Church sent numerous missionaries into that vast and at times inhospitable landscape.

It was in 1848 when New Mexico became a part of the United States and Santa Fe was it's capital city that the Catholic missionaries began to make real inroads into the culture of New Mexico. This movement would prove to be one of the great successes of the mission fields as many embraced the Catholic Faith to this present day.

Around this time a group of Religious Nuns were sent to mission in Santa Fe, which at times could be not only inhospitable but also dangerous with many outlaws still roaming the untamed country. This did not faze these brave Nuns who were made of stern stuff and did not brook much interference with the way ! they wished their Order to proceed. The Sisters of Loreto were used to rough living but even so the move to Santa Fe certainly tested their courage to the extreme. This was soon to be proved correct as the Sisters became ill with cholera one of whom eventually died, and another had to return to the Mother house in Kentucky when she became to ill to continue the journey to Santa Fe.

Upon arrival in the city the Sisters of Loreto were required by the Archbishop Jean Lamy to begin constructing a school in which to teach the poor most of whom were still illiterate. So in 1873 the school and the chapel began to take shape under the design of P. Mouly an architect of French origins, who wished to emulate the designs found in his own home city. Finally after 5 years of hard work the buildings were completed with great admiration with its stained glass windows and magnificent gothic overtones. Unfortunately though as the Sisters moved in they noted that the staircase needed ! to access the choir loft had not been completed. This was unfortunate as the architect responsible for the magnificent building had been shot dead due to a misunderstanding.

Though saddened with the loss of their prized architect, the Sisters improvised and used a wooden ladder in order to reach the choir loft. This brought difficulties when the Sisters tried to climb the ladder in their long Habits, they also did not wish to lack in decorum by having to lift their skirts to enable them to climb the steps, it was a delicate situation.

The Sisters began a search to find an architect that could finish the job begun by Monsieur Mouly, this would prove to be most difficult. So architects, engineers and builders came accessed the difficulties and then left unable to figure out how to build a staircase in such an unusual position. This left the Sisters feeling frustrated, and so they began a Novena to St. Joseph to help them in ! their awkward predicament. Every day the Sisters prayed to St. Joseph for help and at the end of each day brought disappointment as no-one showed up. Finally on the last day of the Novena an elderly man showed up at their little chapel.

The man was a bit of a curiosity in that he was elderly he had no name and was rather non descript in appearance but the Sisters nevertheless thanked St. Joseph for coming to their aid. As the elderly man with no name agreed to build the staircase, where other more learned men were unable to overcome the apparent obstacles, the elderly man seemed not to be daunted even though he possessed only one hammer, one saw, and one T-square. The Sisters were intrigued as to how he was going to accomplish building this staircase where learned professionals had given up.

As the elderly man began building the staircase he had only one request of the Sisters and that was to bring him tubs of fresh water daily, the Sisters though puzzled agreed to this request. Every now and again the Sisters would try and peek to see what was happening in their little chapel, the only thing they were able to see was that the gentleman would soak the wood in the water which the Sisters had provided.

Finally came the day to unveil the staircase as the elderly man approached the Sisters and told them that their rather awkward choir loft could now be climbed via his self made spiral staircase. Upon viewing it the Sisters were overwhelmed at the architectural and engineering masterpiece, which was before their stunned eyes. The Sisters, some of whom had doubted he would have the capabilities to overcome such drawbacks were amazed at its intricate beauty, and its delicacy.

This most beautiful masterpiece was the work of a master craftsman as the Sisters stood in awe of such a fine piece of carpentry. It is indeed an incredible stairway with two complete 360 degree turns with neither nails or screws to keep it from falling down. It stands simply within its own geometric balance with nothing to support it, these thirty three steps, truly was a miraculous undertaking and the workmanship unparalleled.

The Sisters were ecstatic to have such a thing of beauty within their own Convent and wished to pay this most kind man as much as they could afford, but upon being thanked the elderly man disappeared as if into thin air. The Sisters were distraught as they searched everywhere for him and tried in all ways to try and find this wonder worker. The Sisters for whom the staircase had been built were to be disappointed as they never found the 'miracle worker'.

Many decades were to pass before a man came forward who upon hearing of the legend of the thirty three step spiral staircase, made the claim that it was his grandfather who had built it many years earlier. The Sisters who were then in residence were highly sceptical of this young man, Oscar Hadweiber and his claim. Oscar said that within his own family history his own grandfather, Johan Hadweiber had indeed built that miracle spiral staircase with exactly thirty three steps.

During the years when the spiral staircase had been built Johann Hadweiber was indeed in the area and he was also a master craftsman at carpentry when he had lived in Europe that had been his career. The residing Sisters though needed more proof than what Oscar had been able to show them, this led Oscar on a ten year mission to prove that the staircase was indeed the work of his Grandfather.

Oscar himself built ten identical staircases but still this was not proof enough, until in 1970 Oscar found in his sisters attic his grandfathers tool kit, which held one hammer, one saw, and one T-square and also a plan of a spiral staircase which had the exact number! of thirty three steps.

Unfortunately for Oscar his find was never properly authenticated and upon his own death in 1980, the tool box and the plan have also disappeared.

Perhaps angels come with tool cases, of one hammer, one saw and one T-square.

The spiral staircase with exactly thirty three steps still stands to this very day.

Actual photo of the miraculous spiral staircase

Peace of Christ to you ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.


  1. Wow. I don't think you can make such smooth and sophisticated spiral staircase with wood as your material. Nowadays, spiral staircase kits exists so that you can make these steps almost instantly - unlike before that almost only experts can figure out how to make these spiral staircases. That Spiral staircase is truly a marvelous work - something Santa Fe should take care of.

  2. I'm wondering, how this spiral staircase became so miraculous? Did it happen to heal illness?

  3. filomena seiffert10/13/2012 2:30 AM

    It does not matter if Saint Joseph built the staircase or sent an old man to do it, important is the answer to the prayers of the sisters. It was a miracle without doubt.


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