When we visited the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, DC, it was an unplanned and spontaneous detour from our plan for the day. We were in search of a place to hold an event and decided to check out St. Francis Hall, located across the street. Little did we know, we were about to step into a place full of rich history and tradition. When we first arrived, we were distracted by the beautiful gardens for a good 20 minutes. We felt like we had somehow stepped into a time machine and landed in 18th century Europe. We decided it was time for an expedition.
Turns out, the Monastery was built to make visitors feel like they had left the country. The Monastery was founded in the very late 1800’s to serve as a place for Americans to go when travel to the Holy Land was difficult. It was designed to include replicas of the many shrines you would find in the Holy Land if you visited yourself. The designers of the monastery traveled to the the Holy Land and consulted many additional travelers to capture every detail. They wanted a visit to the Franciscan Monastery to feel as authentic as possible. After wondering around the the monastery for a while, we noticed free afternoon tours were available. We decided to join to learn more.
The first thing we learned was in addition to the beautiful church, the monastery also has replicas of the Catacombs located underground! This makes the guided tour feel more like an adventure and less like a trip to a museum. One of our favorite stops was to see the replicas of Roman drawn graffiti of Jesus. As you can see in the pictures, Jesus is illustrated as a young Roman male with traditional Roman clothing instead of with the long hair we usually see today. It was interesting to see how the Roman citizens captured their surroundings in a way they could personally relate to without necessarily considering accuracy.
Once we were back above ground, we continued to explore the beautifully landscaped grounds. The statutes and gardens provided a great backdrop for pictures – it almost felt like you had completely escaped the city.
You definitely do not have to be Catholic to appreciate the monastery. My roommates in college were big history buffs and I immediately wished they were with us.
The monastery offers daily tours in both the morning and afternoon. They are free and last for about an hour. There is a parking lot nearby that is also free of charge. However, the monastery encourages donations or gift shop purchases to support preserving the holy site. You can find more history and tour information on the Franciscan Monastery website. The Monastery is also near St. Francis Hall which is available to rent for social events.
History buffs of all ages
1340 Quincy Street NE
Washington, DC 20017
Brookland – Red Line
About a 10 minute walk away