I took the below photo during our last tour there:
Here is what it looks like from the main entrance.
It has been called Washington's Best Kept Tourist Secret. It is known as an Oasis of Peace. It is the place dedicated to the Patron Saint of Animals. Yes, it looks beautiful from the outside, but what exactly does it look like inside? We will see.
The flowers all all dormant now, during their winter repose. But when we arrive, they will have burst forth in all their spring glory.
First, let's throw a little history on this magnificent place.
The origins of the Franciscan Order began in Assisi, when a young man called Francis heard a sermon in 1209 that made such an impression on him that he decided to devote himself wholly to a life of apostolic poverty and repentance. As time passed, many men joined him. He was soon joined by Clare, who did the same for women. Then a lay following began, the third order, whose members numbered individuals of intellect and creativity, one of whom was Dante. The orders grew and traveled throughout the world. After 800 years, they have become a powerful force in the world of spirituality. Let's now go to our own nation and look at this wonderful place.
The Very Reverend Charles Vassani (1831–1896) in 1880 established the Commissariat of the Holy Land in New York City's West Side (the white clapboard house shown above). It was from this building that Fr. Vassani with Fr. Schilling began plans to build a “Holy Land in America” and a Holy Sepulchre, which they envisioned crowning a high hill on Staten Island, overlooking the entrance to New York’s harbor. However, the Staten Island plan never materialized, but Fr. Vassani and Fr. Schilling did realize their dream on a wooded hilltop in Brookland, near Washington, D.C. Thus, in 1897, Fr. Godfrey purchased the McCeeney Estate in Brookland in order to found a monastery and build his church.
The six pioneer brothers originally lived in the abandoned McCeeney house which had rotten floorboards and was overrun with rats. With the site finally purchased, Fr. Schilling soon engaged the well-known architect, Aristide Leonori (1856-1928), who would later design the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis, to design and supervise the construction of the church and monastery. Leonori visited the Holy Land and took accurate measurements and photographs of the holy sites that were to be reproduced.
A huge wooden cross was erected on the hilltop (shown above), which is today the site of the Friars’ Cemetery (directly behind the monastery). In February 1898, ground was broken for a new building, and the cornerstone was laid on the Feast of St. Joseph.
To fund the construction, Fr. Godfrey sold paper bricks, called “building bricks,” which were 2.5 x .5 inches and contained a medal of St. Anthony of Padua. The building bricks were sold for 10 cents each. When the church was completed, a year later, it was nearly free of debt.
Franciscans love flowers, and it is most appropriate that the place would have a garden that is well taken care of.
The garden hours are 9:00 AM - 4:45 PM, and we can go out there after our indoor tour.
Since we are going in April, here are the booming predictions for flowers in the Franciscan Monastery Garden in April: Pansies, azaleas, lilies-of-the-valley, daffodils, tulips, phlox, redbugs, lilacs, forsythia, and dogwoods.
There is no charge for admission, but I ask that each person donate $3 for this event when you arrive. There will be a donation bin there. It will go to the tour guide and in turn be given to those who have less than us. Please, please post a profile photo; it would be so nice to be able to recognize people, and look for them, and welcome them. Saint Francis would have wanted it that way.
What looks like paintings are actually intricate carvings:
We will have a guide for our private tour and we will be brought down into the catacombs.
The mummified body of St. Innocent, an 8-year old child martyr from the 2nd century, will be visible to us in the catacombs.
No tripods can be used for cameras due to the delicate marble floors and painted areas.
Note for visitors:
At all times, regardless of where you are in the Monastery, be respectful of others who might be praying or in confession. No loud talking is allowed. Clothing should be respectful.
Eating and drinking are not allowed in church. Cell phones must be silenced, put on vibrate or turned off. Photography for personal use is allowed. Commercial photography, video recording or tape recording are prohibited. Personal belongings must remain with visitors at all times. No items may be left in the lobby-this includes umbrellas, lunch bags, backpacks, strollers, etc. The Monastery is not responsible for lost or stolen belongings.
There are no eating facilities on the premises. There are, however, several restaurants and an organic market located nearby on 12th St, N.E. Accordingly, for those who wish to share a meal after our tour, we can confer and decide on where to go at the end of our activity.
Here is the Franciscan Monastery web site:
Location & Directions:
If you drive, we have free parking in the lot right in front of the main entrance that is located at 14th Street, N.E. and Quincy Street, N.E. For GPS mapping purposes, use 1400 Quincy Street, N.E., Washington, D.C.
If any members want to use public transportation, the Franciscan Monastery is located near the Brookland Metro stop on the Red Line. From the metro station, you can walk to the Monastery (a 15-minute stroll). Recommended walking directions, when exiting the station, walk to the bus depot and proceed to Kiss & Ride lot. From the lot, head towards Newton Street N.E. and then make a left at the corner of Newton Street N.E. onto 12th Street N.E. (The CVS Pharmacy will be at this corner.) Make a right at 12th Street N.E. onto Quincy Street N.E. (The "Yes Organic Market" will be at this corner.) The Monastery will be at the top of the hill.