Posts Tagged ‘Romanesque’

EOY2017 (130)

The Castle (front)

One of the most iconic and recognizable buildings in D.C. is the Smithsonian Institution Building.  Colloquially known as “The Castle,” it is located just off the National Mall at 1000 Jefferson Drive (MAP).  I’ve passed by it during bike rides literally thousands of times over the years.  And I’ve visited some of the many gardens surrounding it, such as The Enid A. Haupt Garden, The Kathrine Dulin Folger Rose Garden, and my personal favorite, The Mary Livingston Ripley Garden.  But I’ve never researched it or featured it in this blog.  But with it appearing to be so picturesque on this ride, I decided it was about time I did.

The Castle was designed by architect James Renwick, Jr., whose other works include St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, also in D.C.  It was the first Smithsonian building.  There are now 20 Smithsonian Institution museums and galleries, 11 of which are at the National Mall.  The Castle was designed and built in the Norman Revival style, a 12th-century combination of late Romanesque and early Gothic motifs, which causes it to stand out among D.C.’s other architectural styles.  And it is constructed of Seneca red sandstone from the Seneca quarry in nearby Seneca, Maryland, which causes it to further stand out in contrast to the granite, marble and yellow sandstone from the other major buildings in D.C.  Construction began in 1847 and was completed in 1855.  It was designated added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1965.

The Castle initially served as a home and office for the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Joseph Henry.  And until 1881, it also housed all aspects of Smithsonian operations, including research and administrative offices; lecture halls; exhibit halls; a library and reading room; chemical laboratories; storage areas for specimens; and living quarters for the Secretary, his family, and visiting scientists.

Currently, The Castle houses the administrative offices of the Smithsonian. The main Smithsonian visitor center is also located in The Castle.  In the visitor center you can get a grasp of the scope and scale of the Smithsonian with an exhibit entitled “America’s Treasure Chest”, that displays items from collections across the Smithsonian.  There are also interactive displays and maps, and computers that can electronically answer most common questions.  There are volunteers and in-house experts as well, who can answer other questions and provide information about what to see and do based on what’s currently going on at all the Smithsonian museums.  Additionally, docent tours highlighting The Castle’s 19th-century architecture and history are available.

The visitor center is also home to a museum store featuring a myriad of souvenirs, and the Castle Café, where visitors can enjoy specialty sandwiches, soups, pastries, organic salads, antipasti, a coffee, espresso/cappuccino bar, teas, bottled beverages, beer, wine and, when in season, ice cream.

Finally, just inside the north entrance of The Castle is a crypt that houses the tomb of James Smithson.  Smithson was an English chemist and mineralogist who never married and had no children.  Therefore, when he wrote his will, he left his estate to his nephew, or his nephew’s family if his nephew died before him.  If his nephew were to die without heirs, however, Smithson’s will stipulated that his estate be used “to found in Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men”.  Smithson died in Genoa, Italy in June of 1829, at the age of 64.  Six years later, in 1835, his nephew died without heir, setting in motion the bequest to the United States.  In this way Smithson became the founding patron of the Smithsonian Institution despite having never visited the United States.


The Castle (back)

The Catholic University of America

The Catholic University of America

The Catholic University of America, founded in 1887 by the U.S. Catholic bishops with the support of Pope Leo XIII, is the national and pontifical university of the Catholic Church in the U.S. On this ride I stopped by to see their campus, which is located in northeast D.C., and is bound by Michigan Avenue to the south, North Capitol Street to the west, Hawaii Avenue to the north, and John McCormick Road to the east.  The campus’ main entrance is located at 620 Michigan Avenue (MAP) in D.C.’s Brookland neighborhood.  Brookland is also sometimes known as “Little Rome”, because in addition to the Catholic University, the neighborhood also contains 59 other Catholic institutions and organizations, including Trinity Washington University, the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery. 

The earliest origins of the Catholic University of America dates back to a discussion about the church’s need for a national university during the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1866. Bishop John Lancaster Spalding then persuaded family friend Mary Gwendoline Caldwell to pledge $300,000 to establish it. In 1882 Bishop Spalding went to Rome to obtain Pope Leo XIII’s support for the University.  And on April 10, 1887, Pope Leo sent James Cardinal Gibbons a letter granting permission to begin the university.  It was incorporated later that year on 66 acres of land next to the Old Soldiers Home. President Grover Cleveland was in attendance for the laying of the cornerstone of Divinity Hall, now known as Caldwell Hall, on May 24, 1888, as were members of Congress and the U.S. Cabinet.

Over the years the University’s campus has been expanded to 193-acres, and Romanesque and modern design dominate among its 55 major buildings. Today the campus community includes over 6,000 students from all 50 states and around the world.  There are over 100 registered student clubs and organizations on campus for a wide variety of interests including athletics, academics, social, Greek life, service, political and, of course, religious.  In addition to 21 research centers and facilities, the Catholic University has 13 schools offering doctorate or professional degrees  in 66 programs, master’s degrees in 103 programs, and undergraduate degrees are in 72 different programs.  And while the university welcomes students of all faiths, 84% of undergraduates self-identify as Catholic.

On a personal level I found visiting the campus and learning about the university interesting because I also attended college founded by a church. I graduated from Eastern Mennonite College (now University), which was founded and is affiliated with one of the historic peace churches, the Mennonite Church USA. Despite vast differences in their sizes, enrollment, as well as programs, and the theological and doctrinal differences, they also share many similarities, which made my visit to Catholic University seem almost like I was an alumni returning for a visit.

The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America

The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America

I rode aimlessly around D.C. on this ride, taking routes that I hadn’t taken before in an attempt to find something new that I didn’t know about.  And I did.  I found a monastery, named The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America.  It’s located at 1400 Quincy Street (MAP) in northeast D.C.’s Brookland neighborhood.  Also known as the Monastery of Mount St. Sepulchre, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, and has been a place of worship and pilgrimage for thousands of visitors since the monastery and church’s dedication over a century ago.

Founded by Franciscan friars, the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America is one of D.C.’s little-known and often overlooked gems, with a stunning neo-Byzantine style church with Romanesque influences at its center.  Known as the Memorial Church of the Holy Sepulchre and designed by the Italian architect and engineer Aristide Leonori, the cornerstone was laid in 1898 and construction was completed the following year.  The floor plan of the church is based on the five-fold Crusader Cross of Jerusalem, and it is intended to resemble Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.  The Church was consecrated in September 1924, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of its dedication.

Greeting visitors as they enter through the main gate is a statue of Saint Francis of Assisi, who was born Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone in 1226.  Saint Francis was an Italian Catholic friar and preacher.  He founded the men’s Franciscan Order of which this monastery is affiliated, as well as the women’s Order of St. Clare, and the lay Third Order of Saint Francis.  Saint Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in the history of Christianity.

Surrounding the church is the Rosary Portico, with 15 chapels commemorating the lives of Jesus and Mary. Each chapel contains artistic ceramic plaques bearing the Angelic Greeting, also known as the Hail Mary traditional Catholic prayer, in nearly 200 ancient and modern languages. The façade of the portico is decorated with early Christian symbols from the Catacombs, and is intended to be reminiscent of the cloister of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome and the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.

Attached to the rear of the church is the monastery, built in the neo-Romanesque style. The meticulously landscaped monastery grounds contain replicas of shrines in the Holy Land, as well as a greenhouse. In the early days of the monastery, the grounds were the site of a small farm, and also included a barn, grain silo, tool sheds and other outbuildings.  Today the grounds of the monastery contain beautiful gardens with more than 1,000 roses, as well as other flowers and plants.

I was able to park my bike and walk around the grounds of the monastery for a while.  It is a very beautiful and peaceful place, a true oasis within the city.  It was an enjoyable ride and experience, and I intend to go back again sometime soon.

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