Ann E. Hill
St. Ignatius Church
533, East Jarrettsville Road, Forest Hill, Harford County
St. Ignatius Church is a rubble stone, one-story rectangular structure of five bays, with a tall tower at the west end and a rubble stone two-story rectangular addition of four bays to the south. The three westerly bays, of approximately equal size, comprise the original 35' x 50' church of 1786-1792; the two easterly bays, each slightly longer than the three original bays, comprise the 34' addition of 1848. The tower was added externally at the west end in 1865. The two story wing to the south was added in 1822 as a Priest's residence, later gutted of interior partitions for use as a parish hall. A small frame sacristy was added to the south side of the east bay in 1887. Arched windows retain their original frames with complete exterior architraves broken by wood impost blocks and keystones; the south windows, and a semicircular window in the east gable, retain their original moulded sills, while the north windows, and two lower east windows, have concrete replacement sills. The remains of muntins, defining rectangular lights, 33 over 20, can be seen in the sash of all north and south windows, cut out in 1887 for stained glass. The three windows of the east end retain their original sash, intact. The 13 lights of the semicircular window in the gable suggests the original pattern in the heads of the side windows of the nave. Above the double doors centered on the west end is a Palladian window under a simple stone reliving arch. Sash of the sidelights remain, but the center sash have been replaced by utilitarian doors of the late 19th century, providing access to the upper stories of the tower from the interior gallery. The simple wood cornice, showing no evidence of the extension, is probably of 1848 or later. The roof of the nave is now covered with slate, but under the roof of the 1822 south wing, original wood shingles survive in situ on the nave roof, round butted, fastened with wrought iron nails. Double west doors, each with three partially raised panels, together form a typical six-panel door design.
St. Ignatius Church is one of the few known 18th century churches in Maryland and is the oldest extant church in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The lack of 18th century Catholic churches in a colony founded by Roman Catholics indicates the strict nature of English anti-popery laws. Roman Catholics could not vote or hold office; Mass was allowed but only if celebrated in private homes. However, after independence Roman Catholics could openly worship and erect churches. St. Ignatius' Church, constructed between 1786 and 1792, provides a reminder of the religious freedom won by the Revolution and guaranteed by the constitution.