Thursday, December 8, 2016

Saint William of York Church, Baltimore

In honor of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, we have another visit to a church--one reminiscent of the many parish churches we visited in England...

Saint William of York Church in Baltimore is a small parish on the outskirts of the city. I visited on a weekday and had to wander around the outside to find a way in. The front doors and the side door were locked.

St. William of York Church

St. Joseph in a side garden

A Marian garden in the back

The statue of Mary with children from all over the world

A nice lady saw me wandering around and came out of the parish office to greet me. I said I was interested in making a visit to the church. She showed me the way through the parish office into the church, for which I was delighted.

The old-world feel showed at the door leading into the church. I had the feeling of stepping back into England.

Church entrance from the parish office

Holy water font by the door

The nave is not very big but is wonderfully decorated. The stations of the cross are especially beautiful.


Sixth Station of the Cross: Veronica wipes Jesus' face

Stained glass window (Mendicant saints?) click to enlarge

The sanctuary is also decorated with reverence and a lot of Marian iconography.


Annunciation (n.b. not the Immaculate Conception!)

Mary crowned as Queen of Heaven

To the right is an altar to St. Joseph as well as a stained glass window of the Transfiguration with a marble bas relief of the crucifixion below.

St. Joseph altar

Transfiguration (click to enlarge)

This was a little mystifying to me

On the left of the sanctuary is an altar to Our Lady, along with a small loft for the organist (which would have been a pulpit in a European church).

Marian altar

Actually, in Europe it would have to stick out over the congregation a bit

The altar rail is beautifully carved.

Detail from the altar rail

The baptismal font is rather modest, looking more like another holy water font. The pascal candle next to it is a dead giveaway.

Humblest baptismal font ever?

The entrance doors at the back of the church have a fine window above.


In a small alcove next to the doors are the graves of William and Catherine Lanahan, who donated substantially to the construction of the church.

Lanahan graves

Above them is a stained glass window of William of York.

William of York

Who was Saint William of York?

William came from a wealthy and influential English family. His father was Herbert of Winchester. Herbert was chancelor and treasurer under King Henry I. William held several church offices and served under Archbishop Thurstan of York. When William was selected to replace Thurstan, many of the monasteries complained of secular interference in the election. The issue wound up in Rome, where the current Pope, Eugene III, had to make a determination. Eugene was a Cistercian, so he sided with the monasteries and deposed William. Henry Murdac, abbot of Fountains Abbey, was appointed to replace William. Stephen was now King of England and he opposed Henry Murdac. Stephen wanted his son Eustace to be Archbishop of York. In a few years, both the pope and Henry died. William traveled to Rome and entreated Pope Anastasius IV to be restored to York. The pope assented and William returned to his archdiocese. During his processional entry, the Ouse Bridge collapse but no one was killed. William died on June 8, 1154, a month after his return. He was buried in York Minster. A few months after his death, miracles near his grave were attributed to him. He was canonized in 1227 by Pope Honorius III. June 8 is his feast day, mostly celebrated in York.


  1. Greetings, Joseph. First to introduce myself, my name is Wayne Hipley, Pastoral Associate for the parishes of St. Agnes and St. William of York. I came across your blog posting quite by accident. I enjoyed seeing our church through the eyes of a stranger - I've been a parishioner at St. William of York since 1990 and a staff member since 2002. I wanted to take a moment to respond regarding the bas relief sculpture you found mystifying (trust me, you're not alone). The sculpture is of St. Thérèse of Lisieux kneeling before Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel. in the background is Veronica's veil hanging on the cross. You can see a similar sculpture here: Why the two ideas are melded in our church I am unsure. I'm glad you enjoyed your visit. As we understand it, the architecture is modeled after a similar church in England. If you're in the neighborhood again please contact me - I'd love to give you another tour and fill in the gaps for you!

    1. Thanks so much for the information. We lived in England for a few years, so I visited churches very similar to yours. If we are back in the area, I'd love to visit again.