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The Catholic Historical Review 89.2 (2003) 356-357

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Cook, Mary Jean Straw. Loretto—The Sisters and Their Santa Fe Chapel, Revised Edition. (Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press. 2002. Pp. xviii, 118. $22.50 paperbound.)

The chapel of Our Lady of Light, more commonly known as "the Loretto Chapel" or the "chapel of the miraculous staircase," was dedicated on April 25, 1878. The chapel known for its miraculous staircase has been of interest to Mary Jean Straw Cook for many years, and her research led to the original publication of the book Loretto, the Sisters and their Santa Fe Chapel in 1984. The author's interest and love for the chapel is evident in this lovely and interestingly written account of the chapel's construction and its history. The book also relates the story of the Sisters of Loretto beginning with their establishment as one of the first orders of nuns to be founded in the United States. This revised edition gives additional information about the sisters and their chapel and includes the identity of the person who, the author believes, built the chapel staircase. Her case for the identity of the builder, one François-Jean Rochas, also known as "Frenchy," is well detailed and very convincing. For most native Santa Fecinos and New Mexicans the construction of the staircase will always be attributed to St. Joseph. The story relates that the Sisters had their chapel built but somehow the builder failed to build a staircase to the choir loft. The sisters prayed a novena to St. Joseph and at its conclusion a carpenter appeared to build the staircase. The fact that the staircase is an architectural wonder for that time period (1881) and the story that the carpenter left once the staircase was built without ever being paid has led to Santa Fe's most beloved "mystery" story.

A chronology of events relating to the Sisters, the chapel of Our Lady of Light, and the staircase is now at the beginning of the book which makes it more readily available for quick reference. The photographs throughout the text and the drawings at the end (Appendix A, B, C) clearly illustrate the beauty of the chapel and the staircase. This edition provides enough new material to warrant its value to New Mexico church history.

Marina Ochoa
Archives of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe [End Page 356]


Marchione, Margherita. Pio XII: Attraverso le Immagini. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 2002. Pp. 214. €14,00.)

This life of Pope Pius XII through pictures is dedicated to Pope John Paul II. Following a preface by Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore, there are brown and white images along with those in color covering the whole life of Eugenio Pacelli (1876-1958). Three appendices focus on a chronology of his life, his wartime initiatives, including his help to Jewish victims, and his papal writings. A large section of the book (pp. 131-213) is devoted to iconography, that is, special pictures and drawings from various sources. While its size qualifies the book for the coffee table, it brings home to the reader the truth of the old Chinese proverb that a picture is worth a thousand words. This is one of a half-dozen books published in the last six years by Sister Margherita Marchione in defense of the historical record of Pope Pius XII. It is also available from Paulist Press in English ($24.95), Shepherd of Souls: A Pictorial Life of Pope Pius XII.

Vincent A. Lapomarda, S.J.
College of the Holy Cross




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