St. Anne's a witness to Annapolis history

Church: House of worship has welcomed parishioners and visitors for more than 300 years.

May 16, 2004|By Suzanne White | Suzanne White,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

After more than three centuries, St. Anne's Episcopal Church - a historic landmark in downtown Annapolis - remains home to worshipers of all faiths, tourists and to music lovers who enjoy the popular concerts held there.

The church is at the center of Church Circle, a busy thoroughfare from which streets radiate like spokes of a wheel, leading the way to the State House, governor's mansion, antique shops and restaurants.

"Clearly it was one of the premiere points of the city when it was planned," said the Rev. John Randolph Price.

Established in 1692 in Colonial Annapolis, the church is said to have been named in honor of the mother of the Virgin Mary, St. Anne.

King William III of England, who reigned with Queen Mary II, presented St. Anne's with a silver communion service a few years after its founding in 1692 in Colonial Annapolis. The set is still in use.

The current edifice was built after a fire on St. Valentine's Day in 1858. Remains of the old tower still exist. The St. Anne's compass rose decorates the church steeple, which houses the town clock that rings every 15 minutes.

St. Anne's is one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Annapolis. Elongated red doors open to the interior with richly colored stained-glass windows - some of them made by Tiffany Studios - soaring ceilings, dark wooden pews and needlepoint-covered kneelers made by parishioners.

Price calls the kneelers "an act of faith. ... They help to provide something wonderful and unique in the life of the parish."

Recently, the church underwent work to preserve its beauty and place in local history. Flooring and roofing were replaced, protective coverings were applied to stained-glass windows, and the interior was redone to include Victorian stenciling and other touches.

"The church has not been through any significant restoration in probably 100 years," Price said. "We also included additional lighting, so we can raise the intensity of the light level if we need to for worship at night, musical performances and concerts."

A new sound system also was installed. St. Anne's concert series is popular throughout the Annapolis area. Attendees can enjoy a range of entertainment, including Beethoven, Mozart, holiday music, carols, orchestras and singing groups.

"At St. Anne's, the space is appealing visually and acoustically. It really allows you to hear the performance in an accurate and intimate way," said J. Ernest Green, music director of the Annapolis Chorale and Chamber Orchestra, which performs during the series, in addition to the Kennedy Center Chamber Players and Washington Symphonic Brass. He also is director of music for the church.

A vital part of the community, St. Anne's offers many outreach programs and activities for parishioners including three choirs, fellowship, Bible study groups, a day school and preschool for the arts.

"We look forward to coming to this church as often as possible," said parishioner Marjory Munkelt, who lives in Eastport. "This is a very active parish with lots of opportunities. ... The doors are always open. You don't have to be an Episcopalian to come to this church."

St. Anne's parish office is at 199 Duke of Gloucester St., Annapolis 21401. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Information: 410-267- 9333, 410-280-3181 (fax) or www.stannes-annapolis.org. Summer Sunday worship times will be at 7:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. starting May 23.

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