MHT File Photo
St. Ignatius Church
Webster Field Road, St. Inigoes, Saint Marys County
St. Ignatius Church and its adjacent cemetery are situated on about two acres of land that are enclosed within a late-19th century iron fence. The walls of the church are 21" thick, of brick laid in Flemish bond with random glazed headers. The exterior wall surfaces were later painted with a stucco like paint which is now worn very thin. The gable-front church is a rectangular one-story structure that is fronted by a one-story wood-framed vestibule on the three-bay west end (front) added in 1886 and, at the rear, a one-story brick sacristy dating from 1817. The walls of the vestibule and the two-story pedimented pavilion that it fronts are covered with fishscale shingles. It has a central double-leafed paneled door flanked by two decorative stained glass windows. Over the door, in the area normally occupied by a transom, is a tablet which reads: "I have chosen this place to myself for a house of sacrifice . . . and have sanctified it, that my name may be there forever, and my eyes and my heart may remain there perpetually." A second smaller tablet is set within the gable and reads: "THS MARIGNATIUS". On the second floor level of the pavilion is a lancet-arched stained glass window. The main body of the church is three bays in length on both sides. Each bay contains a round-arched stained glass window headed by a projecting arch of rubbed gauged brick with brick keystones and imposts. Although the presence of undisturbed closer bricks on both sides of each window indicates that the window openings are original, the arches themselves are highly unusual and are the only known regional examples of such a feature. The gable roof runs east to west and has a modillioned eave cornice with gable returns. At the west end of the roof is a small wooden belfry that in 1933 replaced a larger one in this same location. The church stands on a molded brick watertable with small, regularly spaced vertical vents. The 1817 sacristy is also of Flemish bond, but without a watertable or gable banding. A single entrance on its south side has a flat arch of rubbed brick and frames a four-panel door. On the exposed east end are two first floor windows headed by flat arches and framing sash of 9/6 panes. Within the gable are two small windows of 4/2 pane sash. The gable roof has a flush chimney on the east end and the modillioned eave cornice, matching in detail and possibly contemporary to the cornice of the main block, has patterned end boards rather than gable returns.
The significance of St. Ignatius Church is that it is a direct descendant of Maryland's first Roman Catholic Chapel at St. Mary's City, whose communicants formed the nucleus of American Catholicism. The name is that of the patron saint of the Maryland venture, St. Ignatius, founder of the Society of Jesus. Further significance is in its dependence and co-existence with historic St. Inigoe's Manor, on which lands it is situated and which lands were acquired by the Jesuit Fathers in 1637 according to the Conditions of Plantation of the Maryland Colony. In addition to its historical significance, St. Ignatius Church is important as one of the oldest surviving Catholic churches in Maryland. Its decorative details, both those remaining from the original structure as well as the improvement of 1817, are among the most sophisticated in Tidewater Maryland.