DescriptionOn June 16, 1808, Elizabeth Bayley Seton arrived at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore on the same day that Bishop John Carroll, the first bishop in the Unites States, dedicated the seminary's newly built chapel. Elizabeth came to Baltimore from New York to set up a boarding school for girls. During her one-year stay in what is now the Mother Seton House, she took the vows of a Daughter of Charity, thus cementing her conversion and commitment to Catholicism. Following her start in Baltimore, Mother Seton, as Bishop Carroll dubbed her, went on to found Saint Joseph's Academy and Free School in Emmitsburg, Maryland, the first free school for girls in America, and the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, the first apostolic community of women in the United States.
The St. Mary's Spiritual Center, as the location is now called, is also the original home of St. Mary's Seminary, the first seminary in America. The seminary has trained a number of notables, including: Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, a Haitian immigrant who founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence (the first African American Catholic community) and St. Francis High School; Father Gabriel Richard, who is called "The Second Founder of Detroit"; and Father Michael McGivney, who went on to found the Knights of Columbus in Connecticut.
Not to be outdone, the Seminary Chapel at the Spiritual Center is itself a historic gem. Completed in 1808, the chapel was designed by Maximilian Godefroy, the architect of many historically important structures in Baltimore including the Battle Monument and First Unitarian Church. Godefroy boasted that the chapel was the first Gothic building in the United States. The great hoop shape of the interior is similar to the interior of the chapel at Versailles, and its use of Georgian details reflects the complexities of early American architecture.