Exhibit has art and artifacts from state's Catholic beginnings


MARYLAND: First Catholic Colony," an exhibition of more than 100 objects reflecting the early history of Roman Catholicism in Maryland, opens tomorrow and runs through Jan. 27 at the Maryland Historical Society, 201 W. Monument St.

The exhibition, presented by the Archdiocese of Baltimore, is one of the concluding events in the year-long commemoration of the bicentennial of Baltimore's establishment as the first Catholic diocese in the United States. The show covers the years 1634 through 1815 and includes paintings, statuary, liturgical silver and other art works and religious artifacts.

Highlighting the exhibition is a 1628 portrait of England's King Charles I. The oil painting is being loaned by the National Portrait Gallery in London to a United States museum for the first time ever.

"This portrait of Charles I by [Gerrit van] Honthorst is the most important royal portrait to come to the United States on exhibition in many years," said Malcolm Rogers, deputy director of the British gallery.

The portrait, noteworthy for its unusual informality, shows a young Charles I at the time he signed the 1632 charter making Cecil Calvert governor of the new colony named for the king's wife.

Among the other major works and artifacts in the exhibition are:

* A 17th-century copy of the Maryland Charter.

* Portraits of the first and second Lords of Baltimore, George Calvert and his son Cecil, being made available to public view by the Enoch Pratt Library Collection for the first time in six years.

* The Baltimore Barony Patent, with which King James I in 1624 made his former secretary of state, George Calvert, the overseer of 2,300 acres in Ireland so Calvert could finance his plan of settling a New World colony.

* Pope Pius VI's Papal Bull establishing the Diocese of Baltimore in 1789.

* A bust of Pius VI, on loan from the Vatican embassy in Washington.

* A Rembrandt Peale portrait of Archbishop John Carroll, the first Roman Catholic bishop of Baltimore and the United States.

* The original crosier, vestments and episcopal ring used by Carroll.

A free symposium titled "Toleration and the Maryland Tradition in Catholicism" will be held in conjunction with the exhibit, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. tomorrow at the Historical Society. Scheduled speakers and their topics include Lois Green Carr ("Toleration and Politics in 17th Century Maryland"), the Rev. Gerald P. Fogarty, S.J. ("The Election of Bishop John Carroll: An Expression of a Maryland Catholic Tradition"), Michael Trostel ("Jesuit Architecture in Early Maryland") and exhibition curator Romaine S. Somerville with opening remarks.

For more information, call the Maryland Historical Society at 685-3750.

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