Winding Staircase

Two mysteries surround the spiral staircase in the Loretto Chapel: the identity of its builder and the physics of its construction. When the Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878, there was no way to access the choir loft twenty-two 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. Legend says that to find a solution to the seating 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 appeared 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, having come in answer to the sisters’ prayers. The stairway’s carpenter, whoever he was, built a magnificent structure. The design was innovative for the time and some of the design considerations still perplex experts today. The staircase has two 360 degree turns and 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 relative to the height of the choir loft and about the types of wood and other materials used in the stairway’s construction. Over the years many have flocked to the Loretto Chapel to see the Miraculous Staircase. The staircase has been the subject of many articles, TV specials, and movies including “Unsolved Mysteries” and the television movie titled “The Staircase.”winding staircase 1The steps of this Winding Staircase commenced, we are informed, at the porch of the temple; that is to say, at its very entrance. But nothing is more undoubted in the science of masonic symbolism than that the temple was the representative of the world purified by the Shekinah, or the Divine Presence. The world of the profane is without the temple; the world of the initiated is within its sacred walls. Hence to enter the temple, to pass within the porch, to be made a Mason, and to be born into the world of masonic light, are all synonymous and convertible terms. Here, then, the symbolism of the Winding Stairs begins.winding staircase 2The Winding Stairs is dedicated to helping you learn more about Freemasonry and to helping you become the best version of yourself. Through thought-provoking articles, podcast episodes, educational videos, and inspiring art, we intend to help you implement the life lessons you find in Masonry. We are passionate about the step by step journey to living a life worth emulating. Let’s walk together with a firm step and an illuminated path, as we continue our journey up The Winding Stairs.winding staircase 3Here let me again allude to the symbolism of numbers, which is for the first time presented to the consideration of the masonic student in the legend of the Winding Stairs. The theory of numbers as the symbols of certain qualities was originally borrowed by the Masons from the school of Pythagoras. It will be impossible, however, to develop this doctrine, in its entire extent, on the present occasion, for the numeral symbolism of Masonry would itself constitute materials for an ample essay. It will be sufficient to advert to the fact that the total number of the steps, amounting in all to fifteen, in the American system, is a significant symbol. For fifteen was a sacred number among the Orientals, because the letters of the holy name JAH, יה, were, in their numerical value, equivalent to fifteen; and hence a figure in which the nine digits were so disposed as to make fifteen either way when added together perpendicularly, horizontally, or diagonally, constituted one of their most sacred talismans. 156 The fifteen steps in the Winding Stairs are therefore symbolic of the name of God.winding staircase 4Located atop the Winding Stair Mountain within the Ouachita National Forest, this campground offers spectacular views of southeast Oklahoma and the Winding Stair Mountain range. There are 23 campsites with tablse, fire rings, lantern poles, grills and a paved parking area. Potable water, warm showers and flush toilets are available spring to mid-summer, dependent on water availability.winding staircase 5The Spiral Staircase is an excellent film. Dorothy McGuire gives a great performance as a mute woman in a town where disabled women are being killed, I think she deserved an Oscar nomination. She does a lot of emoting with her eyes and her body language. The technical aspects of this film are amazing. The score is extremely creepy, the camera work is excellent, and the main set is well designed. There are some extreme close-ups of an eye that are very spooky. This is a movie that Alfred Hitchcock would have made. There is a long and extremely affecting dream sequence that is riveting. Elsa Lanchester is very good as servant, and Ethel Barrymore deserved her Oscar nomination for playing the employer of the mute woman. An excellent movie that is a must see.winding staircase 6Now, this principle of masonic symbolism is apparent in many places in each of the degrees. In that of the Entered Apprentice we find it developed in the theological ladder, which, resting on earth, leans its top upon heaven, thus inculcating the idea of an ascent from a lower to a higher sphere, as the object of masonic labor. In the Master’s degree we find it exhibited in its most religious form, in the restoration from death to life–in the change from the obscurity of the grave to the holy of holies of the Divine Presence. In all the degrees we find it presented in the ceremony of circumambulation, in which there is a gradual inquisition, and a passage from an inferior to a superior officer. And lastly, the same symbolic idea is conveyed in the Fellow Craft’s degree in the legend of the Winding Stairs.winding staircase 7Advancing in his progress, the candidate is invited to contemplate another series of instructions. The human senses, as the appropriate channels through which we receive all our ideas of perception, and which, therefore, constitute the most important sources of our knowledge, are here referred to as a symbol of intellectual cultivation. Architecture, as the most important of the arts which conduce to the comfort of mankind, is also alluded to here, not simply because it is so closely connected with the operative institution of Masonry, but also as the type of all the other useful arts. In his second pause, in the ascent of the Winding Stairs, the aspirant is therefore reminded of the necessity of cultivating practical knowledge.winding staircase 8So far, then, we are able to comprehend the true symbolism of the Winding Stairs. They represent the progress of an inquiring mind with the toils and labors of intellectual cultivation and study, and the preparatory acquisition of all human science, as a preliminary step to the attainment of divine truth, which it must be remembered is always symbolized in Masonry by the WORD.winding staircase 9But we are not yet done. It will be remembered that a reward was promised for all this toilsome ascent of the Winding Stairs. Now, what are the wages of a Speculative Mason? Not money, nor corn, nor wine, nor oil. All these are but symbols. His wages are TRUTH, or that approximation to it which will be most appropriate to the degree into which he has been initiated. It is one of the most beautiful, but at the same time most abstruse, doctrines of the science of masonic symbolism, that the Mason is ever to be in search of truth, but is never to find it. This divine truth, the object of all his labors, is symbolized by the WORD, for which we all know he can only obtain a substitute; and this is intended to teach the humiliating but necessary lesson that the knowledge of the nature of God and of man’s relation to him, which knowledge constitutes divine truth, can never be acquired in this life. It is only when the portals of the grave open to us, and give us an entrance into a more perfect life, that this knowledge is to be attained. “Happy is the man,” says the father of lyric poetry, “who descends beneath the hollow earth, having beheld these mysteries; he knows the end, he knows the origin of life.”

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *