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Religion Collections in Libraries and Archives: Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia

Carmelite Monastery of Baltimore Archives

Introductory Information

Carmelite Monastery of Baltimore Archives External

Address: 1318 Dulaney Valley Road, Baltimore, MD 21286

Telephone number: 410-308-1109

Contact information: Sr. Constance FitzGerald, archivist; [email protected]

Online catalog External

Access Policies

Hours of service: By Appointment

Open to the public: Yes, to researchers by appointment, to small groups for education purposes

Interlibrary loan: No

Reference policy: Reference requests are accepted by telephone (410.823.7415 x354) or email: ([email protected] or [email protected])

Background note:
The Monastery Library was founded in 1790 by Sisters Bernardina Matthews, Clare Joseph Dickinson, Aloysia Matthews, and Eleanora Matthews. They brought approximately 500 volumes as well as foundational documents to the foundation in Port Tobacco from English-speaking Carmelite monasteries in Antwerp and Hoogstraten. The size and variety of these books were unusual for a group of women and spoke of their literacy and education. The oldest book, a New Testament, is dated 1582. The Library and Archives are significant because they trace the history of the oldest continuous community of religious women in the original thirteen states. This is a community whose first members were Americans from the oldest Anglo-Catholic families of Southern Maryland. The Library and Archives were moved with the community to Baltimore City, Aisquith Street in 1831, to Caroline and Biddle Streets in 1873, and to Dulaney Valley Road in Baltimore County in 1961.


Books and monographs
Over 35,000 volumes, including 500 rare books, dating from 1582 to 2023. The collection deals principally with theology, philosophy, comparative religion, biography, church history, liturgy, and spirituality, with a certain emphasis in Carmelite spirituality and history. The orientation of the collection is predominantly but not exclusively Roman Catholic. There is a collection of science fiction recently donated by Goucher College, and a literature collection in the process of being donated over the next three years. Collection priorities at present include on-going life of community and personal papers of community members, contemporary interpretation of Carmelite spirituality, contemporary theology, spirituality, and philosophy, religious life, feminist theology and literature, African American/Black and Third World literature and theology, including attention to racism and white supremacy, ecology, cosmology and contemporary science, and specific, relevant areas of history.

Periodicals and newspapers
60 current subscriptions, focusing on theology, spirituality, religious life, church history, current events, and social/political/justice issues. Major collection strengths include Carmelite spirituality and history, religious life and spirituality, history of renewal of religious life following Vatican II.

Archives, manuscripts, correspondences, and/or oral histories

Over 120 linear feet, dating from 1648 to the present. Includes archives of the first community of Roman Catholic nuns in the Thirteen Colonies (founded 1790) and other materials relating to the beginnings and history of the Catholic Church in the United States, the Maryland colony and the first Catholic families of Southern Maryland, the first American Jesuits, the first Roman Catholic bishops and founders of religious communities, records of professions and deaths that provide valuable genealogical information, a diary written by a founding member (woman) on the ocean voyage to America in 1790, an original land grant (1648) for property (Chandler's Hope) in Charles County, early 19th century documents of new members willing slave persons as dowry to community, correspondence, all the papers gathered for the Durham property lawsuit (early 19th century). The spirituality which influenced the sisters in both the Low Countries (18th century) and Maryland can be found in the documents. Papal documents, constitutions (1619-date), customs, devotions, and spiritual poetry are also found.
The only efforts at acquisition, in addition to the on-going records of life of present community and its members, have been in relation to monasteries in the U.S. and England that have been closed, one of which is the monastery from which the Baltimore monastery was founded (Hoogstraten 1678), and another which is a foundation of the Baltimore monastery. Their entire archival collection was donated by the Hoogstraten/Chichester community when it was closed.

All of the Carmelite Monastery of Baltimore Archives noted in our online Finding Aid Externalfrom 1674-circa1961 can be viewed on microfilm in the Maryland State Archives.External

Videos and sound recordings
Largely lectures, talks, retreats, workshops, meetings related to spirituality and Carmelite history and renewal, and oral histories of Carmelite nuns in U.S., dating from 1960 to the present.

Very few items before about 1939, including five large paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries including one of Marie Louise (Madame Louise), daughter of Louis XV, who became a Carmelite nun in Paris as Sister Therese of the Holy Angels.

A very small collection, but there are some valuable maps from colonial and immediate post-colonial period.

Other holdings not listed above
Artifacts: silver saddle chalice, other liturgical vessels, altar stone used by Jesuit martyrs in Tower of London in 16th century, relics, household items, bells, 18th century statues, legal seals from 17th century on, embroidered sampler 1789, etc.

Subject Headings

Bible; Carmelites; Catholic breviaries; Business, Finances, Legal Matters; Catholic Church--United States--History; Catholic missals; Contemplation; Correspondence; Devotional exercises; Hymns and hymnals; Jesuits; Liturgy; Maryknoll Fathers; Meditation; Miracles; Missions and missionaries; Monasticism and religious orders--United States; Mysticism; Papacy; Prayer; Religious tracts; Saints; Sermons; Spirituality; Theology; Virgin Mary; Women and religion