Friday, May 20, 2011

Franciscan Monastery, DC

On Saturday after days of rain, the skies broke and promised a day of some sunshine and a respite from showers for a while so Barb, Steve and I decided to visit the Franciscan Monastery in DC. We were lucky to get there and find the place relatively empty and were amazed at the beautiful architecture and gardens that greeted us.There are monks that live here and some go to Jerusalem on missions. The monastery holds replicas of the Catacombs, Jesus' burial place and the tomb from where he ascended.One of the purposes of the Franciscan Monastery is to provide a place in the United States for people who did not have the time or could not afford to travel to the Holy Land or the Catacombs of Rome.
We thought touring the gardens would be the safest bet while it was dry and save the building for later.
The gardens were a riot of color with perennials starting to bloom but the most impressive was the roses. Every color was here and every bush was in full bloom. We walked around in silence for the most part and alternated between taking photos and sniffing the blooms. The previous rain showers had coated all the flowers with raindrops that sparkled and made each flower head look like a jewel. Here are some of the gorgeous roses.
As well as wonderful roses, the sculptures in the gardens were equally breathtaking. But I couldn't find anywhere on the internet to provide information about many of them.
Inside the monastery, my initial reaction was one of awe at the incredibly intricate artworks on the walls and the amount of gold paint used. Every where you looked there were ornate and highly detailed paintings and panels. But I did notice that I didn't feel a subduing respect that I an usually aware of when I enter a church. This felt far too touristy to be taken seriously as a place of worship, yet services are held here on a regular basis. Barb and I also noticed that the prayer candles were not real, just plastic lookalikes that illuminated at the press of a button and were on a timer. I felt no urge to light one, sad that the calming and ritualistic lighting with a taper had been denied us.
This is one of the leather padded doors that enters the church. We had also briefly visited the gift shop earlier and I was disappointed here also. I would have loved to purchase a nice item to take home but nearly everything here was cheaply made mass produced and gaudy. 
We joined a group to be shown the recreations of the roman catacombs where we saw more artwork on the walls and chapels, one of which is the Purgatory Chapel.
I loved these sculptures of St. Cecelia and St. Sebastian. I badly wanted to take the St. Sebastian as I adored it and thought it would look wonderful laying by my fireplace. Steve kindly offered to assist but we had to give up when the realization dawned that it just would not be hidden under my t-shirt.
As we headed back outside we were greeted by fine rain drizzling down. We had planned our visit perfectly as the few people trying to appreciate the gardens were looking decidedly damp. I would definitely like to return here again, maybe in the fall, to see the gardens. They sold a few plants outside and I was enchanted by the message on the water container.
This is also a great site for info on the monastery.
Of course afterwards, we had to finish our visit with the usual tradition so we drove down to U ST and found a bar. After quenching our thirst, which took some time, we then decided to have a BBQ at Barb's. So back to Centreville we headed to collect provisions, mainly steaks, more beers and chips.
Our dinners lined up ready for the heat and individually seasoned. They turned out perfectly and we finished the evening sitting under the car port chatting and watching the storms close out the day.

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