We arrived at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land late in the day; the skies were somber and overcast. The weather seemed fitting for this place of contemplation and reflection tucked away in the Washington, D.C. neighborhood of Brookland. Founded in 1899, the monastery is the United States home of the Holy Land Friars. The neo-Byzantine Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the centerpiece of the grounds which include gardens, replicas of many shrines throughout Israel, an archive and a library.
As we were near closing time we immediately descended the stairs into the lower garden areas. Below you can see a small part of the woodland garden as seen from above.
The grounds are layered in evergreen and deciduous trees, conifers, azaleas and a modest selection of blooming perennials and shrubs–their purpose to form a peaceful backdrop to the spiritual nature of the monastery rather than a garden showpiece. Below you see the Lourdes Grotto found in the lower garden.
The lower garden had a truly ancient feel which was enhanced by many low walls and edgings of these fabulous moss encrusted rocks. The soft paths deadened the sounds of our footsteps and we felt the need to almost whisper in this space!
As we wandered the pathways back to the top the skies had cleared a bit making it easier to walk among the gardens.
You can see the administrative and residential areas in the background. Throughout the grounds were places to rest and just enjoy the quiet surroundings.
Of special interest is the Rosary Portico; a cloister like series of open passageways in which you can travel from one side of the buildings to the other. The column supports of the portico are of varied forms and were all crafted by the same mason.
Roses, boxwood, daylilies and annual plantings grace the open spaces.
As you walk the Rosary Portico you see this angelic greeting recreated in over 150 languages, both living and dead. Many visitors search for the greeting in their own language–I looked for the plaque bearing the greeting in Armenian to take a photo for David but alas, we ran out of time before I found it!
After a day full of the three “H”s–hot, humid and hectic–I boarded the bus with a little bit of the peace of this place firmly implanted in my spirit.