Pursuing Relics in Mount Vernon Place
Baltimore Travel Blog› entry 13 of 20 › view all entries
In January, Susan had read of a new exhibit coming to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. Titled "Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics & Devotion in Medieval Europe", the show would focus on a display of reliquaries, ornate containers said to hold remains of a saint. This sounded like a unique and very interesting art exhibit. But, we had to find the right time to see it before it closed in May. We had our Florida trip in March, and also several trips to Winchester to see Julia's shows. The weekend of April 9 was to be it. So we headed for Baltimore on Saturday morning.
Baltimore is not really far away. A little over an hour. We don't have occasion to go there often, though, and we had never been to the Walters. The Walters Art Museum is in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of the city.
There was a convenient parking lot across the street from the Walters. We started our tour right at the Treasures of Heaven exhibit. (Museum admission is free, but the special exhibit is $8.) It was even more fascinating that I thought it would be! The exhibit traced the development of Christian reliquaries from Roman models to the Middle Ages to a few contemporary examples. Images of saints were followed after 313 AD by public shrines to commemorate them. Some reliquaries took the form of a body part, such as a hand or arm, if that was the remain said to be housed inside.
After seeing the exhbit, Susan and I took a break for lunch, planning to return to see more of the art museum. We had lunch at nearby George's and then went for a walk around the park at Mount Vernon Place. In the center is Baltimore's Washington Monument. It was completed in 1829, years before the more famous Washington Monument in Washington, DC. But, this one was the first and was designed by Robert Mills, who also designed Washington's later column. This Doric column has a statue of George Washington on top. A four-pronged park surrounds the monument contining statues of other figures. An equestrian statue of Washington's friend and ally, the Marquis de Lafayette, is in front of the monument. It was installed in 1924 to honor American and French soldiers lost in World War I.
We took note of two former mansions facing the park. The Garrett-Jacobs Mansion is a very imposing edifice occupying three former house lots. It began in 1872 when the president of the Baltimore & Ohio Railway, John W. Garrett, built a home on the site. His son expanded it in 1884 and his wife again in 1902. It is preserved as the Engineering Society headquarters and is reported to have a Tiffany stained glass skylight. (But we could not go inside to investigate.) Next door we found the 1849 Murnaghan House that had been the residence of Henry Walters, the founder of the art museum. We couldn't go in it, either, but we'd have a surprise once back inside the musuem.
On the opposite side of the park we looked at the Mount Vernon Place Methodist Church.
There was still plenty of time for afternoon exploration, so Susan and I headed down Charles Street to find the Baltimore Basilica. Along the way we stopped at the interesting A People United store. Selling clothing, goods, and teas from India and Southeast Asia, it seemed to typify the shops and cafes of Mount Vernon Place today. (The Doll House Boutique across the street conjured up a racy image, but was a regular women's clothing store.)
Reaching the grounds of the Basilica of the Assumption, on Cathedral Street, we went inside.
Across Cathedral Street is the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the central branch of Baltimore's public library. We inspected the Wi-Fi cafe inside stocked with Seattle's Best Coffee.
Time to return to the Walters for a look at the general collection galleries. As a companion to the Treasures exhibit, the Walters had prepared a leaflet entitled The Walters Pilgrimage. It guided visitors through all the galleries while highlighting an object in each that would tie in with the Treasures special exhibit in some way. A very clever way to lead visitors through the musuem! It bgean in the Egyptian gallery, where a mummy and canopic jars were a type of reliquary of Ancient Egypt. (A object of interest was the cat mummy on display. Now, that nicely tied in with the Ancient Egyptian Cat Rug we had seen at Villa Zorayda in St. Augustine!) Susan and I toured on through the Greeka and Roman, Medieval, Middle Eastern, 18th-century European, and Chinese galleries.
Time to reutrn home as the museum closed at 5:00 p.m. A great day in Baltimore!