Prior to its restoration, the Adoration Chapel below the sanctuary of the Basilica of the Assumption was just one of a number of small rooms. Though certainly a sacred space for contemplation and prayer, it presented less than an inviting space for worship. Until a fisherman at Loch Raven reservoir “caught” a most unusual item – an antique Gothic monstrance – which he gifted to the Archdiocese of Baltimore. This restored monstrance sits beneath the octagonal baldachino with its white Corinthian columns and brilliant blue tiles at the altar within the restored Adoration Chapel.
Belying its small size, restoration of the chapel involved a tremendous amount of work. CAM’s forces completed virtually all of the work themselves with the exception of the new marble flooring, construction of the altar and installation of the new lighting. The plaster arches were modified and restored, the brick flooring removed and the substrate leveled for installation of the marble flooring. The wrought iron gate was designed, custom fabricated and installed to provide a distinctive entrance into the chapel. Previously exposed conduits were hidden behind new drywall. A new railing mimicking that of the sanctuary above was installed to separate the nave of the chapel from its seating and new millwork was installed throughout to provide the sense of history that a chapel within America’s first cathedral warrants.
Though very small in size, the renovation of this chapel presented challenges not often seen in a project of this magnitude. The Basilica above remained operational throughout the project, necessitating careful coordination to deliver new materials and dispose of the debris, and noise had to be kept to a minimum so as not to disrupt the frequent masses within the sanctuary above. The work of CAM’s Field Superintendent was often reviewed by the on-site priests and the Monsignor who, after living through two restorations of the Basilica itself, had become quite adept at scrutinizing the quality of workmanship.
In his dedication, Archbishop William Lori acknowledged the anonymous fisherman whose gift inspired the restoration of the chapel where each day the faithful come to pray for priestly and religious vocations.
Upon its completion, the new Adoration Chapel was dedicated to the great work of Monsignor Arthur Valenzano, vicar of the Basilica, who had originally established the small adoration chapel, but sadly has since passed away after the dedication of the project.