Skip to Content
Search Icon
Issue 08 – Christmas 2021

Brass Rubbings

Umlauts and Apostrophes

On Saint Mary Mother of God church.


Saint Mary Mother of God is a beautiful old German church across from an Irish pub in a Chinese neighborhood of Washington, D.C. and associated with the traditional Mass in Latin. On the block to its south is the old Pension Building, an Italian Renaissance Revival structure from the 1880s; as its name suggests, it once housed the Pension Bureau, which existed to distribute funds to veterans. It is now the National Building Museum. West of the church is the Mary E. Surratt Boarding House, a Federal Style structure in which the assassination of Abraham Lincoln was planned. It is now an Asian restaurant named Wok and Roll. Surrounding Saint Mary’s is the massive Government Accountability Office and Army Corps of Engineers headquarters, built in 1951. It is made up of ninety degree angles around the church property, as if it was meant to encompass the entire block.

Inspired by the famous Ulm Minster in Baden-Württemberg, the Gothic Revival church of Saint Mary Mother of God has a cornerstone from June 27, 1890. This structure replaced the original parish church of 1846. According to Jack Boucher, the parish’s late historian, the current church was designed by the Baltimore architect Ephraim Francis Baldwin; the firm John Stack and Sons from the same city constructed the building at a cost of sixty-seven thousand dollars. The windows came from Innsbruck, where they were designed at the Stained Glass Institute. The stone was local, from the basin of the Potomac. The “tracker” pipe organ in the choir loft was built by George S. Hutchings of Boston in 1891. It was taken apart, cleaned, tuned, and re-assembled in 2020 and remains in use today.

You must or subscribe to read the rest of the article.

About the author

Kenneth J. Wolfe

Kenneth Wolfe is a contributor to Rorate Caeli. His writing has also appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications.