The World Is Beautiful Archives

The Magical Loretto Chapel Staircase

Loretto Staircase

Loretto Staircase

In 1872 the Bishop of the Santa Fe Archdiocese, Jean Baptiste Lamy, commissioned the building of a Convent Chapel to be known as ‘Our Lady of Light Chapel’. It would be under the care of a group of nuns, the Sisters of Loretto.

A French architect, Antoine Mouly, created a beautiful chapel with flying buttresses, tall spires and wonderful stained glass windows imported from France. Although on a much smaller scale, the chapel resembled the famous Sainte- Chappelle in Paris.

At the end of the building of the chapel, Antoine Mouly suddenly died and his builders realised that he had not shown plans for a staircase up to the choir loft.

Because the chapel was so small, it would not be able to accommodate a normal staircase. Actually, at that time, a ladder was often used to gain access to the lofts but this was not going to be possible for the nuns, wearing their long habits.

According to the legend, the nuns took to praying for an answer to their huge problem. For nine long days they prayed to St Joseph for his help and the next day, a scruffy stranger appeared who told them he would solve their problem. Overjoyed, the nuns agreed to his only demand, that he be locked into the chapel and not to be disturbed until he had finished.

Loretto Staircase Spiral

Loretto Staircase Spiral

The stranger disappeared into the chapel with just a few primitive tools, including a saw, a square and some warm water. Three months later, he emerged and when the nuns walked into their chapel, they were greeted with a wonderful sight. Up to their loft, was a carved helix shaped spiral staircase built from non-native wood.

It ascended twenty foot into the air and seemed to hang with no central support. but the central spire of the staircase had been made narrow enough to serve as a central beam.Nowhere was it attached to any pole or any wall, no metal nails had been used, only wooden pegs or dowels.

The nuns were in awe of the stunning staircase, they searched out their stranger to thank him for his wonderful work but he had disappeared. They never saw him again and for them, St Joseph himself, had come to build their staircase.

Loretto Staircase Base

Staircase Base

But it is believed the ‘stranger’ was the young talented French builder, Francois-Jean Rochas, who was only in his early thirties when he built his staircase. (Later he was living in a isolated cabin in the Dog Creek region, even after having been warned there were robbers around. Francois-Jean was discovered in1894 with a bullet to his chest at only fifty years old.)

The nuns and the young female students of the Loretto Academy loved their new chapel with it’s legendary staircase. Ten years later, in 1887, a railing was added for safety and the outer spiral was fastened to it’s adjacent pillar.

The Loretto Chapel was eventually closed but is now a museum and a wedding chapel, so many people can enjoy the sight of the beautiful staircase.

Jo Tempest.

The Elusive Middlemist Camellia

Middlemist Camellia

Middlemist Camellia

A few days ago, my friend, Francis, posted on Face Book that he wanted to post some ‘feel good’ images as he did not always like the so many negative posts. For everyone who ‘liked’ his post, he would send a photograph of a flower.

So I liked his post and true to his word, Francis sent me a photo of a flower…and what a flower! It was the beautiful and extremely rare deep pink ‘Middlemist Camellia’ that could only be found in two examples, one in England and one in New Zealand. They could not be further apart and it got my curiosity going so I did a little research.

The first Middlemist Camellia was brought to England from China in 1804 by John Middlemist. He was a gardener from Shepherds Bush in London. He gave this precious plant to the famous Kew Gardens in London, but it was later moved to the famous 19th century Conservatory at Chiswick House, also in London. 

Conservatory at Chiswick House

Conservatory at Chiswick House

The conservatory had been built for the Duke of Devonshire in 1813 and the plant arrived there around 1823, where it may have bloomed early on, but the conservatory eventually ran into serious disrepair. It also had all the glass blown out by the London Blitz in the Second World War. By the 1980’s, it was a total wreck. But this beautiful conservatory has now been totally restored and the Middlemist Camellia is happily blooming again, along side another 35 rare camellias, seven of them so rare, they have not yet been named.

 

Camelias at Chiswick House

Camelias at Chiswick House

Somehow, a Middlemist Camellia made its way to Waitangi in New Zealand, not sure how. But maybe it also came from John Middlemist as when he returned from China; he did sell some of his plants to members of the general public.

You never know, someone may have an example of this stunning plant in their garden without knowing its history.
Jo Tempest.

Fun True Facts About Spiders

Peacock Spider

Peacock Spider

I have always been fascinated by insects, especially spiders and so ı loved researching and writing my spider book. I thought you would like to know a few things about spiders, so here you are:

  • The fastest spider is the Camel spider and he lives in hot desert regions. He can run across the sand at 10-12 mph. ( maybe it’s because the sand is so hot that he has to run so fast). He also likes the shade and often people think they are being chased by a Camel spider, but it is because you have moved and taken the shade with you.
  • The female house spider can run 330 times its own length in 10 seconds, this is faster than a cheetah in proportion to its size ( that’s why we can never catch them).
  • The deadliest spider is the Funnel Web spider from Australia. It is very aggressive and its fangs are so strong that they can bite through a human fingernail. The next deadliest is the Black Widow spider and that is why she has this name.
  • The smallest known spider is the Patu Digua spider and it is only millimeter long!
  • The largest known spider is the Goliath Birdeater Tarantula of South America, and yes, it
    Goliath Spider

    Goliath Spider

    really does eat birds! It has a 12 inch (30 cms) leg span when fully extended and can weigh over 120 grams. It lives in deep burrows and likes marshy or swampy areas. Sometimes it will dig its burrow itself or take over an abandoned burrow left by rodents or similar creatures. I am pretty sure that if I was living in a burrow and saw A Goliath coming my way, I would quickly abandon my burrow to him!

  • Most species of spiders only bite humans in self defense but the Brazilian Wandering Spider often attacks humans.
  • There have only been 100 reported deaths from spider bites in the 20th century, that actually only works out to one a year.
  • In Cambodia, cooked tarantula is a delicacy.
  • Most spiders live on their own but a few species of spiders build webs together and live in communities of up to 50,000. That’s quite a lot of spiders in one place!

I know spiders make us all go ‘arghhh’ but they are still fascinating creatures and very clever.

Not So Scary Spider

Not So Scary Spider

If you also have a fascination for spiders then you will love my book available for Kindle and similar. Although it is titled ‘Creep Crawly Kids Spider Book,’ do not be put off. It is written for 9 -10 years and upwards, and we are all still kids at heart, aren’t we? Just click on the book cover on the right of this page and go straight to the Amazon page to see it.


Jo Tempest.

 


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