The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, DC was an interesting destination on this year’s Garden Bloggers Fling.
The Neo-Byzantine style church was built between 1898-1899.
At right of the church sits the Rosary Portico.
Our group arrived just after lunch. I had been curious to see this site, described as an oasis of peace, with over 1000 roses, and enhanced by many perennials and annuals.
On this hot summer day the strongest color came from annuals such as begonias and lantana.
As in many gardens on this year’s Fling, daylilies played an important role as well. I enjoyed the way the coloring in this grouping reflected the exterior of the Rosary Portico, echoing the terra-cotta roof tiles.
I quickly wound my way out of the sun, passing along the Rosary Portico. Pausing to explore the architecture of the columns, I felt the temperatures moderate under the vaulted ceiling.
Eventually an open gate revealed an expansive panorama. Steep stairs led to gardens below.
Graceful magnolias towered over the shady lower gardens.
I read up on this monastery after returning home. Franciscans have been tasked with caring for holy Christian sites for 800 years. Envisioned as a holy land for America, a number of shrines are represented here with accurately-scaled replicas.
Though intended to be welcoming and inclusive to all, the very nature and purpose of this place, the reason for existence is a religious one, and I felt a bit of an interloper into this spiritual setting.
In looking through the photographs I took that day, I have been surprised by my reaction but I want to be honest. In considering the plants and garden design I never sensed a real “Oh, wow!” moment during my visit. Without intending disrespect, I confess, aesthetically, the garden and statuary were simply not to my taste. The tombs were rather eerie and the manmade stone I found particularly off-putting.
I am glad to have had the chance to explore this place, and am looking forward to seeing what aspects other Fling visitors responded to in this setting.
Normally drawn to quiet, meditative spaces, I had eagerly anticipated seeing the monastery’s contemplative grounds; however, in the end I never felt a strong connection with this garden.