Collection Tells Early American Religious History: Catholic Objects Are Important Part of Smithsonian Catalog, Exhibit

By Wecker, Menachem | National Catholic Reporter, June 16, 2017 | Go to article overview

Collection Tells Early American Religious History: Catholic Objects Are Important Part of Smithsonian Catalog, Exhibit


Wecker, Menachem, National Catholic Reporter


OBJECTS OF DEVOTION: RELIGION IN EARLY AMERICA

By Peter Manseau

Published by Smithsonian Books, 260 pages, $29.95

As a religion doctoral student at Georgetown University, Peter Manseau was struck by the simple iron cross in Georgetown's Dahlgren Chapel. "It's an amazing object," he said.

The object lacked a label, so Manseau, who was curious, did some research. Soon he was reading press coverage from nearly 30 years ago about Jesuit Fr. G. Ronald Murphy, a German professor, literally tripping over it in a university tower. It turns out that the first Catholics to come to the English colonies in Baltimore made the cross in 1634. According to legend, they fashioned it of materials from their ships, the Ark and the Dove.

Inscriptions in Latin and English on the cross testify to that. "It tells its own story, in a way," said Manseau, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History's first curator of American religious history

Since its rediscovery in 1989, the cross' star has risen considerably. Pope Francis used it during Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on his 2015 visit to Washington. Murphy called that an "immense honor," and added, "The cross was more than likely the one used in the first Catholic Mass on English-speaking American soil, and so represents the freedom of religion upon which this country was built."

Later this June, the cross will be part of American History's exhibition "Religion in Early America," which Manseau curated. It also adorns one of the first pages of the catalog, Objects of Devotion.

"Once forgotten even by archivists, this cross is, in fact, a vital piece of American history," Manseau writes.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In an interview with NCR prior to the show's opening, Manseau said he knew he wanted a significant cross, with a surprising story, for the show. "It just happened to be that there was one here in Washington, and the university was perfectly willing to share it," he said.

The arrival of those settlers was an important moment for U.S. Catholic history, as well as for American religious history more broadly.

"Until then, settlement of the regions that would soon become home to the 13 colonies had been overwhelmingly Protestant," Manseau writes in the book. "These new settlers hoped to create a safe haven for religious difference in an age when theological disputes were often settled with violence."

They would have gotten a good head start at sea. The voyage, in which Catholics and Protestants were packed in tight quarters for four months, was a sort-of anticipation of "interfaith dialogue," Manseau writes.

That relates to the exhibition's three themes: religious diversity, religious freedom and religious growth.

"We think that people will come into the show and be surprised how diverse religion in early America was, and we try to explain that that diversity created the practical need for religious freedom," Manseau told NCR.

The catalog, he said, includes more objects than the exhibition does, but both are arranged by geographic regions: New England, mid-Atlantic, South and "beyond the borders" (which isn't in the show). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Collection Tells Early American Religious History: Catholic Objects Are Important Part of Smithsonian Catalog, Exhibit
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.