top of page
The building that is now St. Mary's Episcopal Church was originally a boat-building shop. Land and structure were formally dedicated on August 6, 1882. By 1885, St. Mary's had been organized as a mission church. It achieved parish status on February 5, 1960.
In recent years, the courtyard in front of St. Mary's has become a welcoming place for locals and visitors alike. The Memory Walk features almost 200 randomly placed memorial stones for lost loved ones in the parish family.
In the southwest comer of the Broadway courtyard is The Granite Tablet designed and executed by Master American Sculptor and parishioner Morgan Faulds Pike.
The centerpiece of the tablet's design is the artist's interpretation of the compass rose – the symbol of the worldwide Anglican communion. The encircling scriptural passage "The truth shall set you free" (John 8:3 2) appears in English as well as in the original Greek. Intertwining ivy, the symbol of eternal life, completes the design.
On the opposite side of the courtyard is The Founder's Tree. This flowering crab apple tree was dedicated in memory of the 22 original founders of St. Mary's.
The sculpture of Blessed Mary and Child high above the central window on the church's facade should not be missed. The dramatic dignity of this design, executed by American sculptor and parishioner, Walker Hancock, is highlighted by the mother's strength and her son's outward and upward reaching arms.
The roof line of the portico and the capitals of the wooden columns are decorated with hand-wrought lead. Basic Christian symbols are seen here surrounded by ocean waves and marine rope. The design of the intricately carved wooden doors includes, on the outside, the biblical inscription: "I was glad when they said unto me, we shall go into the house of the Lord"
(Psalm 122: 1). On the inside is the inscription: "Ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God, ye and your sons and daughters" (Deuteronomy 12:12). Be sure to observe the windows in the doors from the inside. They feature four friendly and delightful creatures of God's world.
Just inside the church is a reproduction of a full relief of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus. This piece was cast from a Della Robbia and is a warmly welcoming reminder of the parish's dedication to St. Mary.
The two small stained-glass vestibule windows emphasize the presence and Lordship of Christ. The window on the left side features the XP monogram used by early Christians under persecution. The window on the right side of the doors features the Greek word for fish – IXTHUS. The letters stood for the initial Greek letters of the credal statement: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.
On the way up the stairs are three lancet windows heralding the Christian virtues of faith, hope and love. Their corresponding symbols are cross, anchor and heart.
The three large center windows on the street-side wall of the church commemorate Phillips Brooks, the great 19th century Bishop and Preacher. Lore has it that every rector who has served in St. Mary's pulpit has been either inspired by or intimidated by the gaze of this eloquent Episcopal leader.
The smaller windows in that wall include traditional symbols of St. Mary (crown and lily) and St. Anne (birds in a nest). Above the rear window is the mural "Christ Comes to Rockport" by Gifford Beal. Local people, including several current parishioners, posed for this piece.
The wooden chest below the center window is actually a columbarium. Displayed there is the festal cross of pewter, bronze and enamel. The design elements incorporated are blossoms of dogwood on a background of "Mary blue," the monogram of the Virgin Mother, and the thorn cross of the crucified Lord transformed into the diadem of the risen and ascended King. During Lent, the cross is turned around to reveal its less festive but equally impressive plain pewter side.
Straight ahead is The Lady Chapel where a 15th century carved oak table serves as altar. The themes of the three chapel windows include (center) The Virgin and Child with the inscription "A little child shall lead them" (Isaiah 1 1:6); (right) The Baptism of Christ by John in the Jordan; and (left) Jesus blessing young children who eagerly come to Him.
Also of note in The Lady Chapel are two carved figures of the crucified Christ, an icon of Mother and Child and a framed print of St. Cecilia, the Christian martyr traditionally regarded as the patron saint of music.
In the hours following the Maundy Thursday service, this chapel is transformed into a garden of repose -- a home for the reserved sacrament.
The thematic orientation of the windows of the nave, from the rear to the front, is as follows. On the left, the three windows were created to highlight the themes of (1) world mission, (2) St. Peter and (3) the call of Simon Peter and Andrew. On the right, the windows celebrate (1) world peace, (2) the law of Moses and (3) music and King David.
Many marine details, including sea birds, fish and boats, appear on these windows. A discerning viewer can find Rockport's Motif Number One. Look for the lobster, too. It was added because of the lobster stew dinners that helped to establish funding for the music window.
On the right-hand wall hangs the bas-relief "Orante," another work by Walker Hancock. The piece, executed in 1927, depicts Christ with two adoring angels.
The three windows of the chancel opposite the organ pipes are the oldest in the building and were designed and executed by Oliver Smith, a local artisan. The largest of them presents The Blessed Virgin with Child in majestic color and form. Below the Madonna is a stylized picture of the nativity with the adoration by shepherds and angels. Flanking this dominant window are two smaller windows – the oldest depicting piety and charity. The zealous devotion of the boy Samuel is the subject of one. The outpouring of love is the subject of the other; it features the Good Shepherd and the Good Samaritan.
The dramatic reredos, created by sculptor Morgan Faulds Pike, was installed behind the altar in 2016. The cabinet, built by John E. Schreiner, is made of quarter-sawn white oak. The doors are dramatically closed at the end of the Good Friday service, to conceal the carved panels, and are reopened at the Easter proclamation during the Great Vigil of Easter. The three panels--Nativity, Crucifixion, and Road to Emmaus--are carved in linden wood. They reflect the style of an important school of sculptors, contemporaries of Albrecht Dürer, who worked in Bavaria during the late 15th and early 16th centuries. In 1994, Pike did extensive research in Germany to study the work of Tilman Riemenschneider (1460-1531), who was the most important of these artists. Pike’s use of expressive drapery and her graphically dramatic composition in the carved panels are directly influenced by Riemenschneider’s work. As sculpture created in the 21st century, the reredos reflects a contemporary sensibility, particularly in terms of how it highlights women’s importance in the biblical narratives and Pike’s respect for animals and the natural world. In the Road to Emmaus panel one of the two disciples is a woman. The crucifixion panel emphasizes the women at the foot of the cross, and Mary, mother of Jesus, is central in the Nativity panel. In that same Nativity panel, Pike surrounds the holy family with animals who are dignified witnesses to the birth of Jesus.
The wooden altar’s bold symbols include the alpha and the omega: "I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last" (Revelation 22:13).
On either side of the altar are the most recent of St. Mary's stained-glass windows. To the right of the communion rail is a window that was originally intended for a side chapel. It presents a collage of the Parables of Jesus and deserves careful study as it tests the biblical scholar's acquaintance with the teaching stories of Christ.
The sanctuary candle burns above constantly and signals the presence of Christ. Parishioners support the burning of the sanctuary candle in memory of departed family members and friends.
On the wall to the left of the altar is the aumbry where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. This handsome piece – carved of wood with a surface of gesso and silver leaf – is the work of the late Max Kuehne.
The organ is a 1947 Möller selected for the church by the world-renowned musician and St. Mary's summer organist, T. Tertius Noble. In the 1960s, parishioner and noted organ-builder Charles B. Fisk re-voiced two ranks of pipes in the Möller organ.
The pulpit was given in memory of Kenneth Brown by his mother. It was designed and constructed by Gloucester's Charles Nazarian utilizing six panels of a pulpit originally carved for another church by I. Kirchemayer, one of America's finest ecclesiastical carvers. There are 13 lancets, each one ornamented with a shield bearing a polychromed instrument of the Passion. The wrought iron lectern features a central motif of the Celtic cross.
bottom of page