The recreated chapel at Historic St. Mary's City. (Photo: Maryland Historical Society)
BALTIMORE—The Maryland Historical Society announced that the three lead coffins that held the remains of Maryland's founding family—Philip Calvert, his wife, Ann Wolsey Calvert and an infant—have been reinterred at the chapel at Historic St. Mary's City. Partnering with the Pride of Baltimore II, the Ark and Dove Society, and Society of Colonial Wars, the Maryland Historical Society will take part in a special Maryland Day observance at Historic St. Mary's City on Saturday, March 19th beginning at 1pm. The event will feature the opening of an exhibit in the chapel featuring the coffins visible through a glass floor so that visitors can see this extremely rare example of early Maryland history.
"Only five lead coffins are known to exist in North America, and all five are in St. Mary's City," says Maryland Historical Society President and CEO Mark B. Letzer. "These three examples therefore show us an important link to mortuary practices from the nascent colonial period. We are proud to take part in this special observance, as well as mark the final resting place of these important people."
The lead coffins were on view from March 2015–February 2016 in an exhibition at the Maryland Historical Society entitled "Tale of Three Coffins: Living and Dying in 17th Century Historic St. Mary's City." Prior to that, they were on view for five years at the Smithsonian Institution in an exhibition entitled "Written in Bone."
Maryland Day Events
In addition to the new Chapel exhibition, the Maryland Day event will consist of several fascinating components:
The tall ship Pride of Baltimore II will be transporting a Liberty Tree Cross from Baltimore to Historic St. Mary's City. This cross is part of a trio of wooden crosses fashioned from the roots of a 600-year old Annapolis tree that once served as a meeting spot during the American Revolution.
As reported in The Baltimore Sun, the first cross was presented to Pope Francis. The second cross was given to Prince Charles—and the third and final cross will be presented to the Chapel at Historic St. Mary's City, where it will reside at the top of the dome for the reconstructed Carroll Family tabernacle that scholars believe was used at the chapel in the 17th century. "The rich symbolism of a cross made from the roots of Maryland's Liberty Tree completing the altar at the place the first roots of Liberty of Conscience were planted in the New World is truly wonderful!" says Historic St. Mary's City Director of Research Dr. Henry Miller.
Two key founding documents of Maryland will also be on display. One is Andrew White's account of the voyage and founding, and second is a letter written by the first governor, Leonard Calvert, to his business partner in England. Dated to May of 1634, this letter provides the only description of Fort St. Maries which the settlers constructed.
This will be the first time the Calvert letter has ever before been displayed to the public. Equally compelling, this is the first time these documents have come back to St. Mary's City since they were dispatched to England on the Ark in 1634. Maryland Historical Society Chief Curator, Alexandra Deutsch, will provide remarks on these documents.
In addition, Historic St. Mary's City will present its highest award, The Cross-Botany Award, to Smithsonian Forensic Anthropologists Dr. Douglas Owsley and Ms. Kari Bruwelheide, who conducted the analysis of the skeletons of Maryland's founders excavated at the Chapel in the 1990s. They provided key insights that helped to identify the three individuals buried in the lead coffins at the Chapel site as members of Lord Baltimore's family.
There will also be a Presentation of the Flags from Fourth grade students from each county in Maryland, beginning with the newest and proceeding to the oldest county. Several of the state's leading politicians are expected to attend.
What Is Maryland Day?
In March, 1634, after a long, difficult Atlantic winter crossing, the ships Ark and Dove sailed up the Potomac River. The March 25, 1634 mass on St. Clements Island celebrated the beginning of spring and the planting season, the Feast of the Annunciation and a fragile but hopeful escape from the religious bigotry that was rampant in 17th century Europe.
Maryland was among the first of the British colonies to allow "freedom of conscience," which meant freedom of belief to Protestants and Catholics. It was a revolutionary concept nearly 400 years ago.
The Maryland Historical Society is grateful to Historic St. Mary's City, the Society of the Ark and Dove and Pride of Baltimore II for their assistance in creating this truly historic event. For more information and directions to Historic St. Mary's City, visit this link.
About The Maryland Historical Society
Founded in 1844, The Maryland Historical Society Museum and Library occupies an entire city block in the Mount Vernon district of Baltimore. The society's mission is to "collect, preserve, and interpret the objects and materials that reflect Maryland's diverse cultural heritage." The Society is home to the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner and publishes a quarterly titled "Maryland Historical Magazine." Visit www.mdhs.org.