Shrine of St. Anthony
Construction on the Shrine building began in 1930 and was completed in 1931. Fr. Benedict Przemielewski, a friar known to have exquisite taste and a solid knowledge of the history of architecture designed the building. Fr. Benedict visualized the new friary as a miniature Sacro Convento of Assisi, the friary in Italy where St. Francis is buried. For its actual location Fr. Benedict selected the slope of a hill commanding the plain, smaller by far, but somewhat similar to that of Assisi. Originally built to be the Novitiate for the St. Anthony of Padua province, the building was put under the patronage of St. Joseph Cupertino, the Conventual Franciscan friar who is the patron saint of students with difficulty.
The material used for the building was Beaver Dam marble quarried in Cockeysville, Maryland. It was smooth sawed and in random ashlar of about 4 inches and 8 inches, with granite for backing and simple stone trim to bring out its beauty. The reason Beaver Dam marble was selected was for its beauty of texture, and for the warm colors that blend admirably with the surrounding wooded scenery.
The Shrine building today retains its original beauty and splendor though it has been renovated to meet the demands of ministry in the 21st century. The many features and uses of the building are listed below.
Entering through the Shrine’s black wrought iron gates, one is struck by the magnificent courtyard with a slate walk and a limestone fountain. The fountain which is at the center of the courtyard has many levels of meaning. The first is its biblical significance in that Jesus refers to himself as the fountain of salvation. The second meaning is it reminds us of the day of our own baptism when we were washed and cleansed of our sins and shared in Christ’s victory over sin and death. As water is also a symbol of quenching one’s thirst, the third meaning is to remind us that our thirsts are quenched by Christ when we allow him into our hearts and lives.
As one looks more closely at the fountain one cannot help but see several lion’s paws in the middle of the fountain structure. The lion’s paws are a biblical reference to the Lion of Judah. Within Judaism, the Biblical Tribe of Judah traditionally was symbolized by a lion. In Christian tradition the lion of Judah represents Jesus. This phrase appears in the book of Revelation where we read: Do not weep. The lion of the Tribe of Judah, has triumphed, enabling him to open the scroll with its seven seals. In short, the fountain at the center of the courtyard reminds us we need to make God the source and center of our life so he can be for us our strength, who is there to provide for us in time of need with his many graces and gifts.
Lifting one’s eyes toward the top of the shrine building, the pilgrim comes in contact with two crossed hands and a cross surrounded by the sun’s rays. These two crossed hands depict the wounds of the crucifixion. One is depicted as a bare arm, that is the hand of Christ, who hand was pierced with the nail. The other, which depicts an arm covered by a sleeve, is the hand of Francis, who received the wounds of Christ, The Stigmata on Mount La Verna in 1224, two years before his death. The stigmata of St. Francis is an important fact of the saint’s life: it shows us that anyone wishing to call oneself a follower of Christ must be willing to suffer, to take up one’s cross and follow Jesus. For it is in dying to oneself that we are born to eternal life.
The main corridor of the Shrine holds 13 murals depicting the life of St. Anthony. The Shrine murals are copies of a series painted by Tiberio Licini that were given to the Shrine by the friars at the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua, Italy. These life experiences of St. Anthony are used during the thirteen weeks of the Novena the friars say every Tuesday. A short reflection on each of Anthony’s significant life experiences and a prayer are part of the weekly novena. A pilgrim could spend a whole day just reading, reflecting and meditating on these life experiences of St. Anthony and how they in turn can follow and imitate his example and life of prayer.
The Glassroom is the first room on the east wing of the Shrine. The room gets its name from the length of glass windows and doors lining its east and west walls. The west wall of the room looks out onto the courtyard allowing a peaceful view of the central fountain. The east wall of the room looks out onto a rolling hill leading down to farmed fields. The doors of the east wall open onto a veranda complete with comfortable seating. The Glassroom has a capacity of 80 people and is regularly used for meetings and retreats. To use the the Glassroom for your next meeting or retreat please contact the Shrine office at 410-531-2800 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 410-531-2800 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or at email@example.com.
The Papal Dining Room
The dining room of the Shrine of St. Anthony is named after the seven paintings of the Franciscan popes that adorn its walls. The Papal Dining room is yellow with a regal red background for each of the areas that holds a painting. Besides the seven red squares that hold paintings of each past Franciscan pope, the dining room has an eighth empty red square ready to place the painting of the next Franciscan pope!
Besides having portraits of the seven Franciscan popes, the Papal Dining room contains another important painting unique to the Shrine of St. Anthony. Known to the friars of the Shrine as the “First Breakfast,” the painting depicts our Blessed Mother nursing the infant Jesus. This image, while striking, is not the most important detail of the painting. Most important is what the infant Jesus is holding in his hand: an apple. With this apple the artist is showing that Jesus and Mary are the new Adam and Eve, restoring humanity’s relationship with God.
The Papal Dining room is available for use by pilgrims and visiting groups, and has a capacity of 84 people. To use the Papal Dining Room for your next meeting or retreat please contact the Shrine office at 410-531-2800 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 410-531-2800 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Library of the Shrine of St. Anthony is truly a work of art. Three walls are paneled in gum wood shelving and the fourth is adorned with a large fireplace. The library shelves contain thousands of spiritual and theological books. A second level to the library houses ancient theological works, specifically works on Franciscan topics. The Library is available for use by pilgrims and visiting groups and is a cozy place to hold meetings. The capacity is 15 people. To use the Library for your next meeting or retreat please contact the Shrine office at 410-531-2800 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 410-531-2800 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or at email@example.com
The Conference Room at the Shrine of St. Anthony is situated across the hall from the Chapel. The Conference Room was originally the friars’ recreation room and has been a second chapel used by the brothers before going out to the fields or barns to tend the livestock. The room is adorned with paintings and statuary from the Franciscan tradition: a picture of the city of Assisi, a picture of the Sacro Convento where St. Francis is buried, a statue of St. Francis. The room has a capacity of 35 people. To use the Conference Room for your next meeting or retreat please contact the Shrine office at 410-531-2800 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 410-531-2800 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or at firstname.lastname@example.org