St. Mary's Seminary Chapel

St. Mary's Seminary Chapel, located at 600 North Paca Street in Baltimore, Maryland, is the oldest Neo-Gothic style church in the United States. It was built from 1806 through 1808 by French architect Maximilian Godefroy for the Sulpician priests of St. Mary's Seminary. Godefroy claimed that his design was the first Gothic building in America.

St. Mary's Seminary (now St. Mary's Seminary and University), founded in 1791, is the oldest Catholic seminary in the United States. Godefroy also designed the First Unitarian Church in Baltimore. It is located adjacent to the Mother Seton House.


The small, brick chapel, measuring approximately 90 feet (27 m) long by 70 feet (21 m) wide, is one and a half stories high, set on a high basement. A false front braced by small flying buttresses rises above the main roof, the result of economy measures that lowered the roof below the level of the intended rose window.A tower, statuary and stained glass in the front windows were also cut. The round arched windows are set in rectangular openings. The brick were originally made for Benjamin Henry Latrobe's Basilica of the Assumption, but it was built of stone. The bricks were then purchased for this project for $3,000.00, contributed by Charles Carroll of Carrollton. A stucco cornice lines the sides of the chapel. The interior comprises a wide nave flanked by narrow side aisles. Nine aisle column bays frame three sets of stained glass windows on each side. A sanctuary is set 18 inches (0.46 m) higher than the nave, flanked by transepts on either side and ending in a small semicircular apse. A balcony extends three bays inward from the entry over the nave. The nave ceiling is plaster, simulating a shallow rib-vault. A crypt underlies the church.

During the 1830s and 40s the chapel gained a tower with a spire and interior decoration by Robert Cary Long. However, Long's tower became unstable and was removed in 1916. Some of Godefroy's wood and plaster work was removed at this time. A 1967 renovation sought to restore the chapel to Godefroy's intentions.

The chapel's basement was used for services by black Catholic refugees from San Domingo. Lessons for African-American children were also provided there by the Oblate Sisters of Providence.

The chapel was designated a National Historic Landmark on November 11, 1971.

Building Activity

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