Even though the parish was founded on December 8, 1887, the current church located at 408 South Chester Street dates back to April 24, 1927, when the cornerstone was laid during the pastorate of Monsignor Stanislaus Wachowiak. It was dedicated on April 15, 1928 with 3,000 people in the church and hundreds more standing on the sidewalk outside. For the construction of the church and the rectory to become a reality, 47 homes in the neighborhood were demolished. Baldwin and Radziszewski were the architects who designed the church for a total cost $600,000.
The building is of Romanesque design and is constructed of woodstock granite. The church has a seating capacity of 2,000 people. It was featured in architectural magazines of the day because of the steel arches used in the ceiling which allowed for no pillars to hold up the roof, making the marble-carved altar the main focus of attention. The only pillars used in the church are the ones to support the choir loft. The grand altars were made of 49 tons of Italian and Spanish marble in Pietrasanta, Italy and then transported to Baltimore. The main altar is 20 feet wide and 30 feet high. The mosaics in the church are all of Venetian work. The original statuary of the church--the Rosary Group, St. Joseph, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus--came from Spain and were designed using the most sophisticated European artistry of the time. Notice the great attention to detail, even to the glass eyes which give the statues a very real presence. The main group of statues above the high altar depicts the apparition of Our Lady of Pompeii (in Italy, on March 3, 1884) giving the rosary to St. Dominic while St Catherine looks upon Our Lady with great love.
In the sanctuary there are three grand murals. On the left of the main altar there is the Presentation of Mary in the Temple and on the right of the main altar there is the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Queen of Heaven and Earth. Behind the statuary of the Our Lady of Pompeii is the Crucifixion. Around each of the murals there are 5 smaller murals representing the mysteries of the Holy Rosary which befits the name of the parish so well.
The painting of Christ the King, above the sanctuary arch, is flanked by 10 holy men and women of Polish Nationality: St. Stanislaw bishop, St. Stanislaw Kostka, St. Jadwiga (Hedwig), St. Jacek, Blessed Wladyslaw, St. Jan Kanty, St. Kinga, St. Andrzej Bobola, St. Wladyslaw- king, and Blessed Andrzej Zuwarek. The painting of St. Wojciech (Adalbert) adorns the Sacred Heart altar and the painting of St. Kazimierz adorns the St. Joseph altar.
The ceiling paintings of the main naive depict the 12 Apostles. Below them, the angels hold scrolls with the Queenship titles of Our Lady in Polish taken from the Litany of Loreto. The murals on each side of the organ depict the wedding of Mary and Joseph and the death of St. Joseph.
The organ, which is encased in solid mahogany, was installed by the Moeller Company of Hagerstown, Maryland. When built, it was said to be the largest in any catholic or non-catholic church. It was designed by Firmin Swinnen, a private concert organist for Pierre S. Du Pont and a graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Antwerp, Belgium. For those who are interested in organs, this particular one has 3 manuals, 61 stops, 25 couplers, 25 pistons, 3 separate swell boxes and 3,000 pipes. We were in the progress of refurbishing the organ, but this project is now on haitus because of extensive cost. In keeping with the tradition of Holy Rosary, the new Viscont electronic organ is also from Italy.
The stained glass windows are of Munich design. The glass was sent from Germany to Reading, Pennsylvania where the windows were wrought. In 2013-2014 our parish restored all of them to their former glory through the generous donations of parishioners and friends whose names can be found on a plaque in the vestibule.
Finally, in the back of the church, there is a small chapel where the former baptistry was located. It was a place of prayer where one could light a candle in remembrance at the altars of the Poor Souls in Purgatory, St. Theresa of the Little Flower, and St. Anthony. Currently this place will become the new Shrine of the Divine Mercy, which will be opened daily for prayer.
Around the church, there are alt-relief statuary plaques depicting the Stations of the Cross, inscribed in the Polish language. Through the generosity of Catherine and Bernadette Gietka, the Stations and the sanctuary murals were completely restored in 2013 to their former glory.
This is indeed a beautiful house of prayer, one that has played a major role in the spiritual life of Baltimore. St. John Paul II visited here when he was Cardinal. There is a plaque to commemorate this occasion near the side entrance of the original Divine Mercy Shrine.
Holy Rosary Church was dedicated as the Archdiocesan Shrine of the Divine Mercy by Bishop John Ricard on April 5, 1993, on the first feast day of Blessed Faustina Kowalska and two years before the healing miracle of Fr. Pytel happened.