The Carmel of Port Tobacco, Maryland

Posted by on Apr 23, 2012 in Blog | 7 comments

Monastery building and Chapel, Mount Carmel Monastery, Mount Carmel Drive, La Plata, Maryland

Monastery building and Chapel, Mount Carmel Monastery, La Plata, Maryland

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On the summit of Mount Carmel, Maryland, overlooking the Port Tobacco river valley, the first convent of religious women was established in the original thirteen colonies in 1790 by four Carmelite nuns.  Religious freedom had been denied to Catholics until the laws disenfranchising Catholics were overturned by the Bill of Rights in 1787 guaranteeing freedom of religion.  Up until this time, any American woman who wished to embrace the religious life had to travel to Europe and enter a convent in Belgium or France, since England, too, had anti-Catholic laws.

Monastery Building, Mount Carmel Monastery, Mount Carmel Drive, La Plata, Maryland

Monastery Building, Mount Carmel Monastery, La Plata, Maryland

–  Click on the image to enlarge or purchase  –

The well-tried faith of Southern Maryland Catholics inspired numerous young men and women to make the hazardous voyage across the Atlantic to pursue a religious vocation.  After the new American Government was established and the anti-Catholics laws overturned, one of these intrepid souls, Father Ignatius Matthews, after returning to Southern Maryland to work among the beleaguered Catholics, wrote to his sister, Mother Bernadina Matthews, who had become the Prioress of the Hoogstraeten Carmel in Holland suggesting that she return to Maryland and found a Carmelite Monastery.  Mother Bernadina Matthews, her two nieces, Sister Mary Aloysia and Sister Mary Eleanora, along with Sister Clare Joseph from the Antwerp Carmel, were chosen as the four pillars upon which the Carmelite foundation was established.

The monastery remained at Port Tobacco until 1831 when Archbishop James Whitfield of Baltimore decided to bring the nuns to Baltimore.  The location in the Port Tobacco valley was sold to a farmer but it remained dear to every American Carmelite throughout the next century.  In 1933, a dedicated group of laypersons purchased the original property and established an organization whose express purpose was to save the two remaining old buildings, create a catholic shrine, and, hopefully, work for the re-establishment of the nuns at their original site.  This group are known as “The Restorers of Mount Carmel in Maryland“.

Two of the original buildings were joined together and restored to create the white frame house seen today.  The larger section became a dormitory and the smaller an infirmary.

Chapel, Mount Carmel Monastery, Mount Carmel Drive, La Plata, Maryland

Chapel, Mount Carmel Monastery, La Plata, Maryland

–  Click on the image to enlarge or purchase  –

In 1954, the Restorers built the rose brick Pilgrim’s Chapel, which is maintained as a shrine.

In 1976, the re-foundation of the monastery came about when six Carmelite nuns returned to the site.

The above narrative, with some adaptation, has been taken from the web-site of the Carmel of Port Tobacco.

Click here for more images of historic Charles County

7 Comments

  1. nice scene Mark and great processing, well done!
    Jim Nix recently posted..Big skyMy Profile

  2. Very nice processing and history lesson Mark. That first image has a wonderful composition
    Len Saltiel recently posted..Blackberry Falls RevisitedMy Profile

  3. Interesting history along with great images, Mark. I’m with Len on the first shot. . .beautiful composition.
    Mark Neal recently posted..HDR – Azaleas GaloreMy Profile

  4. These are some really great images, Mark. Interesting how they joined the two structures together. Love that chapel and courtyard shot as well. What a long, storied history. Nice write-up, man.
    Jimi Jones recently posted..Seabees ~ Can DoMy Profile

  5. Love the circular courtyard in front of the chapel!
    Curt Fleenor recently posted..Stair Step FallsMy Profile

  6. That first shot is spectacular! Nice work!!
    Adam ALlegro recently posted..An Interesting ComparisonMy Profile

  7. Love reading the history that goes along with your images Mark! Great images once again – I wish we had some sunshine like that over here. The good old British weather is on form at the moment!
    Tim Pursall recently posted..M Shed.My Profile

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