Note: Right now, only the gardens are open to visitors, daily 9am – 5pm; the indoors spaces are closed due to Covid.
It’s not often that I read lists revealing “hidden treasures” in DC and actually learn something I didn’t previously know. And I’m not saying that in a yay-me-I-know-everything kind of way. I mean, think about what I do, this blog. I make it my business, literally, to keep up with these things. Plus, I have lived in DC for a Really. Long. Time. Much longer than the average transient-inclined Washingtonian, so I’ve been around. On top of that, I simply enjoy discovering new places and adventures around the area. For me, it’s fun and keeps life interesting.
So back in October, when Thrillist published a round-up of 13 DC Secrets You Had No Idea Existed provided by the Prince of Petworth, I was psyched (and super impressed). There actually were several spots listed that I wasn’t aware of until I read the piece. I quickly checked off five of the thirteen as “been there, done that” and recognized a couple of others even though I hadn’t yet experienced them. But the remaining six had me intrigued — and, admittedly, feeling like I might be losing my edge. A reality check like that is good thing, though, since it’s often just the motivation needed to get on it. Not to mention, the prospect of going to some new, cool places is always exciting.
Hence, I am making it my business, both personally and professionally, to uncover those “secrets” that evaded me for so long and have vowed to visit the rest of the 13. This mission has actually been in progress since reading that Thrillist article, but I’m only now starting to post about my findings. And it’s lucky #13 on the list, The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, that is kicking off the series.
The “Oasis of Peace” in Brookland consists of the Memorial Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the centerpiece of the Monastery, beautifully manicured grounds immediately surrounding it, and a lovely garden area adjacent to that. The Rosary Portico, long concrete open air passageways, run along the perimeter of the inner grounds, the inside walls adorned with Christian symbols and ceramic plaques bearing the Angelic Greeting in nearly 200 ancient and modern languages. Between the portico and the Church, there are a few statues as well as a greenhouse and a little fish pond, all very pleasant to stroll among.
And here I feel compelled to note that I’m in no way trying to push any kind of religious agenda. In fact, I’m Jewish, and a mildly practicing one, at that. But I do appreciate a beautiful, interesting, peaceful place, and the Franciscan Monastery is that and then some.
We first visited in the fall and enjoyed touring the grounds around the Church, but the gates to the garden were locked for some reason, and we weren’t sure about going inside. So, on the recent unseasonably awesome 60-degree day, I took Sasha and a friend with me to explore some more.
On the south side of the portico are gates that lead to the garden. Stairs and a ramp lead down to a gorgeous area where there is a grotto commemorating the agony of Christ, a replica of the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, and other religious shrines, all within a lovely plant and tree-filled area. I did have to remind Sasha and Celina that it was a very special place for many people and that the “caves” were not places for them to chase each other. It’s easy to see how the sights are exciting to them, and they loved the garden, too. If it’s that pretty in the winter, I can only imagine how gorgeous it is in the spring when the flowers (lots of roses, apparently) are in bloom.
Along with wandering the grounds outside, we popped into the Church, too. Tours are available, but we just walked around on our own, taking in the spectacular architecture and design of the cathedral.
Photos don’t begin to do this place justice. You’ll just have to go experience it for yourself.
The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America is located at 1400 Quincy Street NE in the Brookland neighborhood of DC. Monastery hours are 9am – 5pm Monday through Friday, 9am – 6pm on Saturday, and 8am – 5pm on Sunday. Garden hours are 9am – 4:45pm daily. Guided Garden Tours take place every Saturday during the summer at 11am and 12pm. Admission is free.
*If you’re looking for a bite to eat before or after visiting, I highly recommend Brookland’s Finest located at 12th & Jackson Streets NE. Delicious food, great vibe, and very kid-friendly.