595 3rd St. NW
Holy Rosary is an unassuming church from the outside, located a block from Judiciary Square (or, as they say it on the Metro, Joo-dish-ee-ary) and the National Building Museum, near where 395 plunges into the earth so it can burrow under the Capitol Reflecting Pool between 3rd St. and the Ulysses Grant monument. It's an easy walk from my place, although I took the Metro up from Chinatown since I didn't have time to walk from home (Mass at noon, I slept late because I was out at a housewarming until two in the morning...you know how it is). And, although the Metro decided it was fine to take 15 minutes to go three stops, and although I should by rights have been late to Mass since I didn't get there until several minutes past noon, I was still on time. God bless the Italians and their penchant for starting things late.
Although the exterior is modest and unassuming, the interior - in typical "remember the Renaissance?" Italian style - is gorgeous. If, of course, you like Neo-Baroque with a hint of Rococo.
St. Peter, anyone who knows me knows that I also have a soft spot for the Baroque (or the Neo-Baroque, which is the closest you'll ever get to the real thing in this country), and this church fits that expectation perfectly. I am particularly delighted by some of the details:
...vivid stained glass windows...
...and lovely mosaic stations of the cross, for example. Even more intriguing is that this is a very small church - smallest, I've been in, in fact, perhaps half the length of St. Dominic and certainly not as wide, which makes it feel more exclusive, and allows the art to saturate the space more effectively than the same amount of art in a larger church. It's like going to Mass in a jewel-box.
Of course, it being an Italian church with an Italian language Mass at 10 (some day, when I'm feeling courageous...), there is a little Italian priest behind the marble altar, his English slurred and monotone, more likely not because of a stroke, but because his mother tongue is the music of la bella lingua, not flat American English. A wiry but frail man with a touch of Parkinson's, he totters between the altar and his seat - there is no room for another podium beside the cantor, a burly man who could be a mafia enforcer, and I doubt that he (the priest) could make it up to the top of the raised ambo without considerable assistance - for the prayers, and then informs us that in place of a homily, we will listen to a recorded message from Cardinal Wuerl, since this weekend is the kickoff of the Cardinal's appeal (D.C.'s version of the yearly bishop's appeals which each diocese in the country holds at this time of year to raise money for diocesan programs). I started tuning the message out when the cardinal mentioned that the money would support, among other things, unspecified "pro-life programs," and resolved that I would give to the various parishes in the archdiocese which need donations to stay open, rather than to the cardinal so he can lobby Congress to restrict access to family planning facilities and end federal aid for Planned Parenthood. So there.
To soothe my affronted political sensibilities Holy Rosary kindly providing laughing children and an actual organ - the only complaint I have to level against St. Peter, which is approaching the status of home base more than any other church, is its overly-bombastic pianist - with old hymns to match. It is surprising how many churches have dispensed entirely, it seems, with use of the organ - more than half of those that I have visited, I would say. In certain ways, I am a traditionalist at heart.
So, how does Holy Rosary score?
Location: 4 - close enough to walk pretty easily, but not exactly in the neighborhood
Aesthetics: 5 - delightful little jewel box with charming details, a great altar, and splendid stained glass
Liturgy: 2 - although it may be better without pre-recorded sermons from the cardinal
Music: 4 - great to hear an organ again, although only for hymns; all the Mass parts were spoken
For a total of: 15 of 20, or 3.75. I'll come back another week to hear what the liturgy is like without the cardinal "in attendance," although I may come back just to watch the children crawl in the aisles under a golden ceiling and the benevolent gaze of the Regina Sacratissimi Rosarii.