St. Mary’s Catholic Church is the oldest Catholic Church in Virginia, and in 2018 became the second church in the state to be designated a Basilica by the Vatican, which gives it a “special relationship” with the Pope. Barnes Vanze worked with the Rev. Edward Hathaway and many local artisans to execute several aesthetic and architectural improvements to reinforce this new status.
We helped St. Mary’s design its own crest—a Basilica requirement—that’s become the new symbol and logo of the church. Other requirements include a Tintinnabulum or “little bell,” and the Ombrellino or “little umbrella,” which are regularly displayed and on certain occasions carried in procession. Barnes Vanze designed the Tintinnabulum and the brackets to support both Basilican symbols on the sanctuary walls.
Outside, we designed new bronze and black railings—installed by Alexandria’s own Flaherty Iron Works—that bear the Ave Maria monogram to honor the Basilica’s patroness. We also worked with the Maryland-based Standard Restoration to clean the Basilica’s 1895 Victorian limestone façade, upon which hangs a new cast-bronze sign we designed and installed in collaboration with Lou DiCocco of St. Jude Liturgical Arts Studio in Havertown, Pennsylvania.
Inside, we worked with Rev. Hathaway, St. Jude Liturgical Arts, and Rugo Stone of Lorton, Virginia, to integrate a reclaimed 1910 marble railing into the altar’s platform and install new marble flooring all around it, creating a sense of beauty and solemnity in the sacristy that had been lost in multiple renovations over the last century.
Near the main church building on South Royal Street is the Rectory, which houses the pastor and priests, and the Lyceum building for meetings and events. We assisted the church with several upgrades throughout the priestly residence, and to improve its privacy, moved their offices across the street to the Lyceum via a new, dedicated side entrance for staff and visitors.
We designed a decorative gate to highlight the office entrance and give it its own identity. The custom stone and metalwork, punctuated with gas lanterns, recall the setting of the original 1888 Lyceum building on Duke Street in Old & Historic Alexandria. This passage, lined with improved paving, leads to a new, accessible and energy-efficient wing for the parish staff to do their important work for the congregation and community, and for church parishioners to visit.
Additionally, we’re executing the master plan for the church’s school, which includes exterior and interior additions and renovations. Initial interior work was completed in the summer of 2017.