The Best-Kept Secret of Franciscan Monastery in Washington DC

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The Catacombs of Washington DC are architectural remains, which evoke wide-eyed amazement from those on private Washington DC tours. Its legends are as mysterious as the mile-long strength cast from cement. Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America found in late 1900’s is home to some of the best-kept secrets of Washington DC. The monastery, comprising of a church, holy shrines, cloister walkways, and a Lourdes cave, has a secret underground passage that is reminiscent of the catacombs of ancient Rome.

Often dubbed as the Catacombs of Washington DC, this underground passage of Franciscan Monastery is not quite as dated as its Roman inspiration may imply. It was the Franciscan monks, who took a step to construct a reproduction of the catacombs for the North Americans, as tourists could not afford an overseas trip to see the catacombs in Rome even during turn of the 20th Century.

All graves in the catacombs underneath the Franciscan Monastery are replicas of Roman catacombs save one, which is believed to be the skeleton remains of a small child. Urban legends still hold on to the belief that the martyr child’s bones trace back to 2nd Century, which came to the city capital in late 1920’s from Rome’s Catacomb of Callixtus.

Apart from the catacombs, Franciscan Monastery also has a park-like setting featuring a Jesus tomb replica, chapels, altars, and picturesque caves. If you are into Middle Eastern and ancient Roman architecture, this place is worth a visit. Your religious faith can be different but the guided tours of the Franciscan Monastery are driven by interests in sacred architecture from people of all faith and age group.

It was an Italian architect born in Rome named Aristides Leonori, who reproduced a small catacomb’s design for the monastery by studying photos and measurements of its Roman originals. The monastery spanning acres of space has different sections that represent different chapters from Early Christianity. As of now, there are only a handful of places in the world featuring hidden catacombs including Rome, Paris, and this particular one in Washington DC’s Brookland neighborhood.

The subterranean passage underneath has a mysterious entrance next to the primary altar of the monastery. The catacombs capture the spirit of Roman-style architecture, which was mysteriously portrayed in early Dan Brown novels as well.

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