St. Andrew's Chapel - A Quiet Treasure at the U. S. Naval Academy

St. Andrew's Chapel, Annapolis, MD
The U. S. Naval Academy Chapel in Maryland is a striking piece of architecture and somewhat of a centerpiece of the Academy, being visible from most places on the campus.  Many visitors to the Academy will take the time to stop and enjoy this beautiful place of worship.  Fewer people, however, seem to realize that there is an additional chapel downstairs, underneath the main chapel, called St. Andrew’s.  It takes a bit of effort to locate this small-ish chapel; it is on the same level of the very impressive John Paul Jones crypt, and adjacent to some church offices and and a tiny Blessed Sacrament chapel. 

A Much Smaller Size
The St. Andrew’s Chapel is much smaller in size than the main chapel and so holds services for smaller groups.  However, both a Catholic mass and a Protestant communion service are held at St. Andrew’s each Sunday for the midshipmen (Catholic and Protestant worship services are offered in the main chapel as well, of course).  There is also a 12:50 PM Catholic Daily Mass at St. Andrew’s. 

St. Nicholas, St. Barbara, St. Brendan
Sea-Related Stained Glass Windows
Though St. Andrew’s Chapel is small and simple, it holds some meaningful sacred art; much pertaining to naval interests.  For example, there is a cluster of three stained glass windows depicting patron saints of sailors:

  • Saint Nicholas - a very holy bishop (also known as Santa Claus) who lived in the fourth century in Asia Minor (modern Turkey).  One story tells that some sailors were once caught in a terrible storm and prayed to the good bishop, asking for his prayerful intercession.  Purportedly, Nicholas appeared to the mariners and guided them to safety. 
  • Saint Barbara – another saint from Asia Minor who lived near the third century.  Allegedly, her highly protective father housed her in an isolated tower.  Some claim that from this tower, St. Barbara’s view and observations of the sea in part influenced her decision to embrace Christianity.  Her pagan father was furious over Barbara’s conversion and beheaded her with a sword.  Soon after, the father was struck dead by lightning. Seafarers have often held St. Barbara as a protectress of their time on sea, especially during threatening thunder and lightning storms.    
  • St. Brendan - an Irish monk born who was born in the late 5th century.  St. Brendan established several monastic communities including a large monastery at Clonfert (within present-day County Galway) near A.D. 559.  Brendan also spent much time at sea making missionary journeys, sailing from one location to another, allowing God to navigate his ship.  Some claim that he once actually sailed all the way to North America.   
St. Andrew the Apostle
Another stained glass window is of the patron saint of the chapel, St. Andrew, an apostle who had earned his living on the sea.  St. Andrew is depicted holding an X-shaped cross, symbolizing the belief that he was martyred on such a cross in Greece. 

He is also pictured in a boat holding a fishing net, with Jesus beckoning him to become a “fisher of men.”  Windows of St. Paul on a ship in the midst of one of his journeys, and St. Moses parting the waters of the Red Sea can also be discovered in St. Andrew’s Chapel.

Noah's Ark Kneeler
Thought-Provoking Embroidery
An impressive amount of embroidery design can be discovered in the quaint chapel as well.  Kneelers with cross-anchors and three-fish Holy Spirit insignias, Sanctuary Chairs with boats and fishing nets, as well as a cushioned kneeler at the altar depicting Noah’s Ark with a Psalm verse reminding worshipers of the power of God:  God is our refuge and our strength.  -Psalm 46:2a 

Baptismal Font
A Special Baptismal Font
The stand and pedestal of the Baptismal Font in St. Andrew’s Chapel were crafted from pieces of wood from the U.S.S. Constitution, the historic Navy ship that was used by the United States Navy from 1797 until 1855.  The pieces of wood for the Baptismal font were obtained during a refurbishing of the ship.

Naval Academy Main Chapel
Visiting Saint Andrew’s Chapel
If you happen to be touring the U. S. Naval Academy and make a stop at the beautiful main chapel, consider searching out the St. Andrew’s Chapel in the basement.  The peacefulness and inspiring works of art are worth the little bit of extra effort.  And, if you happen to be on the campus near 12:50 PM on a weekday, remember that you can attend mass at this lovely and somewhat-hidden chapel.

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