On a quiet hill in the Brookland neighbourhood of Washington DC, there is a hidden architectural and historical gem; the Franciscan Monastery of Mount St. Sepulchre.
The Franciscan order was established by Saint Francis in the 12th century, and in 1342 Pope Clement VI entrusted the Franciscans with the upkeep of all Christian shrines in the Holy Land. Their custodianship is still in effect today, and this monastery in northeastern DC was built to provide a taste of the Holy Land to those who could not travel to the original shrines. Both the building and the grounds are filled with full-size replicas of many of the principal shrines and chapels of Christianity. It is a veritable Holy Land in America.
The beautifully manicured gardens, which you got a sneak preview of in my previous post, are home to replicas including the grotto at Lourdes, the Stations of the Cross and the Portunicula church in Assisi; the church built by St Francis.
Impressive though the grounds were, however, it was what was inside that I found most spectacular. The rooftop gave a clue as to what was in store.
The Jerusalem cross (aka Crusaders’ cross) was the Crusaders’ symbol for Jerusalem, and was adopted by the Franciscans. The floor plan of the church loosely resembles the symbol, with large aisles at right angles forming a cross and dividing the space up into four quadrants, and it was built to resemble the Hagia Sofia in Constantinople. The altar is covered by a large bronze baldachin which is supported by four columns, each adorned with statues of the twelve apostles.
It was a dazzling display of neo-Byzantine architecture, and such an unexpected surprise that at some point along the way I forgot I was still in the US.
Mount St. Sepulchre is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is definitely worth seeking out if you are in DC. It is a little off the beaten track at 1400 Quincy Street NE, but is not too far a walk from the Brookland CUA Metro stop. The H6 bus stops nearby too.
If you go, I highly recommend a guided tour, because this is the only way to gain access to the lower church… and the catacombs. The catacombs get a post all to themselves: Catacombs and Old Byzantium II.
This post is fantastic, Ailsa. I follow the blog posts of Dennis Aubrey who writes about French Romanesque churches and takes awesome photos, like yours, so this is the sort of thing I’m interested in. This church in DC seems to have been transported across the seas. What a great find!
Oh Trish, this place is wild, so unexpected and more than a little surreal. I’m so glad you enjoyed my post about it. I love Dennis Aubrey’s blog, and his photos are spectacular – he really knows how to capture architecture on a grand scale. I am a big fan of his work.
Wow! This is gorgeous and absolutely stunning! Thank you so much for sharing these photos and info!
It was such an unexpected surprise, Charlene, made my day!
What an impressive church Ailsa! Without the accompanying text, one could be forgiven for assuming this was in Istanbul!! And you have captured the scale really well.
Thanks Madhu, and you’re right, it was incredibly authentic in appearance and atmosphere. xxx
Thanks Gilly, it was the most pleasant discovery! 🙂
That was an excellent post today. Thanks so much for sharing it. I
really enjoyed reading it very much. You have a wonderful day!
Thanks guys! xxx
Wow. Absolutely spectacular. I love the details and the story behind old churches… What an amazing find!
Thanks, JarofSalt, I feel very lucky to have stumbled across this little treasure!
I’ve never been to this state so this place is definitely something I’m going to look for 🙂
I’m looking forward to the next instalment!
I see you found the second part, Denise – just catching up on my comments! xxx Ailsa
Absolutely beautiful, both inside and out, ailsa. Love your photos.
Thanks ad, I couldn’t stop taking photos, there was so much beauty.
Hard to believe the photos are not from Europe! Exquisite detail makes for amazing architecture and decor. What a superb place, and what great pics!
Thanks, Madoqua, yes, I felt transported to a very different part of the world. xxx
BEAUTIFUL! Well captured. Thank you for taking us inside to see this amazing church.
BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!
Very happy to have shared it with you, Francine. Check it out if you’re in town, it’s quite a wonderful experience. xxx
My goodness, yiour post delivered a feast for the eyes this morning! The Byzantium-6 photo reminds me of a Willliam Morris design. Every image is amazing. Thanks! z
Thanks! It was such an exciting discovery, I couldn’t quite believe my luck! Glad you enjoyed it. xxx Ailsa
What a great architecture. 🙂
Absolutely, cocomino, the scale and beauty was breathtaking.
Ailsa, these photos are incredible. The more I scrolled, the more I was blown away. I love Washington, DC but have never seen any of this. We will need to visit, no doubt. Your photography adds to the beauty. I don’t know anything about architecture but i want to visit Dennis Aubrey’s blog. I am a novice at this photo game, but the more I see, the more I’m learning ( and am encouraged that I’ll improve.) thanks for the eye candy. 🙂
So glad you enjoyed the post, and definitely try to visit next time you’re in DC. Check out Dennis’ blog here http://www.vialucis.us/ His stuff is spectacular. xxx
Browsed through quickly. Looks like some pretty amazing stuff. So much talent out there, so hard to keep up with all these blogs when you want to cover all the ground. Need 48 hours Ina day 🙂 Now wouldnt that be nice.
I know, it’s hard to keep up! There’s so much good stuff out there.
Thank you for touring ut to the Mount St. Sepulchre. Majestic building, beautiful garden, and the inside… sure is a hidden architectural and historical gem!
You’re welcome, Amy, it really was such a wonderful surprise, I couldn’t wait to share it! 🙂
This really is just a beautiful place – thanks for “discovering” and sharing it! We’ve been to the National Cathedral, but never here…
It’s just up the road from the Basilica of the National Shrine – next time you’re in DC try and see it, the architecture is incredible.
Will do – thanks!
Wow! What a find. Thanks for the info. Maybe, one day, we will be by NY – I will keep this place in mind. 🙂
It was a lucky find, Imelda. It’s actually in Washington DC, not New York, so look for it if you ever get to visit Washington. It’s worth the trip! 🙂
This is beautiful! Thanks for a great post!
Thanks for stopping by, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. xxx
Oh WOW! What a magnificent architecture inside the church! Beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing it. 🙂
You’re welcome, Inge, very happy you enjoyed it! xxx
The colors are just phenomenal…
It really was the most exotic whirl of jewel tones and muted reds, a photographer’s paradise! 🙂
Such a beautiful place, and you captured it so well.
Thanks Jeff. I made a valiant effort – it was an impossible place to capture in its entirety, or its grandeur, so what I settled for was a glimpse of something far greater. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in town! xxx
Wow. I don’t even have words. This is truly breathtaking. The images and the photography. Amazing job.
Thanks for the compliment, Angelia, I really appreciate it. Glad you liked my post. xxx
Cathedral seems overwhelming at first, I like the way you broke it down into areas highlighting design and architecture. It must have been fun to tour the catacombs.
Thanks c & c – I was originally going to write just the one post, but there was too much to tell, so I figured it would be better to write two separate posts.The catacombs were brilliant! 🙂
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