The Italian-style church was established in 1913 to serve the more than 3,000 Italians in this “Little Italy” neighborhood who came here to help build the nation’s capital as stone carvers, masons and other trades.
Located at 595 Third Street, N.W., Holy Rosary Church’s exterior includes a bell tower, Christopher Columbus statue and four marble statues representing accomplishments by Italians.
Inside is a traditional Italian venue. A large oil painting on the ceiling behind the main altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Roman artist Romano Fattorini dominates the interior. There is a marble pulpit, stained glass windows and mosaic stations of the cross that are little jewels of art and devotion.
The neighborhood began giving way to federal government buildings in the late 1940s, but many of Holy Rosary’s parishioners are second and third generation and still travel to the church regularly. Indeed, Holy Rosary remains the heart of the Italian community with the feast of the Holy Rosary considered an annual holiday complete with a parade and more food than anyone can eat. The church still offers services in Italian and English every Sunday and afterwards espressos and cappuccinos. This church site opened in 1942.
James Cardinal Gibbons was the Archbishop of Baltimore decreed Holy Rosary Church as a shrine for Italian-American Catholics in 1913.
The bell tower has five bells, each dedicated to a different patron. They are the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, Saint Joseph, Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint Gabriel and Saint Rita.
The church raised the money for the bells in 1943, but because of a scrap metal shortage caused by World War II they needed to wait until afterwards in 1946. The bells were cast by the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore.