Day Tripping - DC Metro
St. Mary's County, Maryland

Historic Churches in St. Mary's County
Christ Episcopal Church, Dent Chapel
All Faith Episcopal Church, St. Francis Xavier Church
Photos by Ron Patterson


Christ Episcopal Church

Christ Episcopal Church located off of Route 238 at Chaptico, Maryland, was completed in 1736. The tower was added to the original, traditional rectangular building after the colonial period. This church features a semi-circular chancel, arched ceiling, crowned columns and boxed pews.

The congregation was founded in 1640. The parish, which consists of a few Episcopal churches, was created in 1692. (Dates provided by Shelby Oppermann, Leonardtown, Maryland)

The edifice was damaged during the War of 1812 when British troops vandalized Chaptico Village, dug up the graves in the churchyard, and stabled their horses inside the church.

Members of Francis Scott Key's family (the author of the national anthem) are buried in the churchyard.



Christ Episcopal Church

The interior of Christ Episcopal Church showing its beautiful altar window depicting the Holy Family with wise men and shepherds. Whereas originally colonial churches did not have stained glass, Christ Episcopal has a wonderful collection of windows presented throughout its use as memorials to local families.



Dent Chapel

Located off Route 5 on Charlotte Hall Road, Dent Chapel was erected in 1884 on the grounds of the Charlotte Hall Military Academy in memory of Reverend Hatch Dent, the academy's first principal. Built of granite with a decorative brick belt, it is considered one of the finest examples of Victorian Religious Gothic architecture in Maryland.



All Faith Episcopal Church

All Faith Episcopal Church is located off of Route 6 on New Market Turner Road in Mechanicsville.

The parish of All Faith was created in 1692 and this church was built in 1767, replacing the original log structure. Highlights of the church include the rose window above the altar, the barrel-shaped ceiling, a slave gallery and original hand-wrought hardware. Complete records of its founding exist in the Hall of Records located in Annapolis.



St. Francis Xavier Church

St. Francis Xavier Church located off Route 243, near Leonardtown, Maryland was constructed in 1766 to replace an earlier 1662 church near this same site. Architecturally significant and rare are its two octagonal shaped brick ends.

St. Francis is one of the oldest Catholic churches from the Colonial period and today occupies a site on a 700 acre modern Jesuit farm off of Newtown Bay. Its setting conveys the feeling of isolation that must have been present in the Colonial period, and its survival shows the dedication and spirituality of the southern Maryland Catholic community.



St. Francis Xavier Church

The entrance to St. Francis shows the colonial brickwork of this mostly clapboard structure.

It is interesting to note that the Catholic Church in Maryland was "disenfranchised" when the Anglican Church was proclaimed the "state" or official church in 1692. Prior to this, Maryland operated under the Act of Religion of 1649 which granted freedom of religion and guaranteed separation of church and state. Marylanders after 1692, whether protestant or Catholic, were now forced to pay taxes to the Anglican Church. Catholics were forced to worship in secret until after the American Revolution.



St. Francis Xavier Church

The altar is oriented as is traditional towards the East. A modern banner is shown hanging behind the altar against what appears to be colonial woodwork. The purple altar colors are appropriate for the church season of Lent.

The "barrel" or rounded ceiling is unusual for a colonial building.



St. Francis Xavier Church

A close up view of the altar as decorated for Lent. Notice the pilasters decorated in blue and gold.



St. Francis Xavier Church

An interior view of St. Xavier showing the clean and relatively unadorned space. Notice the windows contain clear panes of glass, not stained glass. The colorful, modern Stations of the Cross stand out against the white walls giving a sense of spirituality and peace.



St. Francis Xavier Church

The interior view shows a "twelve over twelve" (12 panes in the top sash and 12 in the bottom!) window looking out onto the surrounding countryside. Can you imagine the hardship of a settler's travel to such a spiritual outpost? Remember, transportation was by foot, by carriage, or on horseback through fields and woods without the benefit of modern roads or luxurious SUV's!



St. Francis Xavier Church

The "altar" end of St. Xavier Church, showing the geometric brick end where it meets the clapboard sides.

The darker bricks in the construction are called "headers" (the end of the brick), and their "glassy" color contrasts with pink "stretchers", or bricks laid horizontally. This brick work is known as "Flemish" bond and is typical of 18th Century buildings.



Newtown Manor

On the St. Xavier property is Newtown Manor (right, rear of photo), an early Maryland "manor" completed in 1789. Its brickwork appears to be intact with some restoration for stabilization, but the building itself is unoccupied and unrestored. Flemish bond brickwork and "queen" closers at bays (windows and doors) indicate the sophistication of its construction.



Newtown Manor

This photo shows the east front of Newtown Manor house. According to experts, the structure originally had two rows of dormer windows. The main floors are situated above English, or raised, basement.

The discoloration of the brickwork shows the "shadows" of a porch (front) and shed (side) which have been removed.



Newtown Manor

The plaque which gives a brief history and chronology of the manor house.