Mount St. Sepulchre in Washington, DC is a Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America. The Church itself neo-Byzantine design by Roman architect Aristide Leonari in 1899. The church looks akin to St. Sophia (Hagia Sophia) in Constantinople (Istanbul).
The interior of the church resembles a five fold Crusader Cross of Jerusalem. The large bronze baldachin is is supported by columns which depicts the twelve Apostles. The interior is decorated with the Ave Maria and scenes from the life of Mary.
The Friary is the home of Franciscan Commissariat in the nation’s capital, and they continue their 800 year tradition of supporting the Holy Land. Part of the charism of the Commissariat seems to be a special celebration of Passiontide.
The Tenebrae service which is celebrated on Spy Wednesday is is resplendent in faith and history, as is incorporates a cappella medieval pieces sung by the Suspicious Cheese Lords (Suscipe Domine Queso).
While they are a consummate choir, the Suspicious Cheese Lords need to practice their polyphonic songs in situ at the Franciscan Monastery.
The Suspicious Cheese Lords in rehearsal for the Tenebrae Service.
Even though the Suspicious Cheese Lords ordinarily sing early music works, one year they chose to perform Arvo Part’s De Profundis (1980).
Lighting the Candelabra for the Tenebrae Service.
Extinguishing the candles during the Tenebrae Service.
The closing of the Tenebrae service is marked by a retreat of the single candle into the crypt. As the vault to the catacombs is slammed, it sets off an unnerving Strepitus, meant to symbolize the earth convulsing at the death of the the Messiah, Jesus the Christ.