Seamen's Church Institute
Newport, Rhode Island
In 1930 Edith and Maude Wetmore, daughters of Governor and Senator George Peabody Wetmore, who made his fortune in the China trade, provided the present site at 18 Market Square as a memorial to their parents. They commissioned architect Frederick Rhinelander King to design and supervise the construction of the building in Georgian Revival style —later listed on the National Historic Register.
The building was designed to house and serve seafarers of all types. At first they were primarily naval personnel, fishermen, ferryboat captains and their crews, yachtsmen, crews from freighters, Customs Officers, an office of the Coast Guard, and countless young persons from all parts of the world. While the last continue to find Seamen's Christian Institute a haven, the mix of the others is somewhat different today. Nonetheless, it is still primarily oriented towards those who derive their livelihood from the sea or marine related trades such as members of the fishing community, seamen from merchant vessels and yachts and workers on the waterfront, or in the marine trades, in addition to transients and tourists.
Its location on the waterfront has
been key to being accessible to its constituents — a logistic as relevant today
as yester-year despite the change in demographics.
The Memorial Chapel
The Chapel of the Seamen’s Church Institute of Newport is for Seafarers. It depicts saints long associated with The Sea. For centuries these symbols of faith have been venerated and called upon by mariners in need.
This Chapel is given in memory of Marie Caroline Helene Jeanne Caroline de Keridern de Trobriand Post. She is remembered for her care of all sailors everywhere. Her ancestors served honorably in the Army, Navy, Church, and State, taking part in exploration, discovery, and mission. Some of the saints depicted in this Chapel have particular relevance to her and her family.
over the baptismal font
The Chapel is thought of as a quai-side, looking out upon the Seven Seas of the world. The altar, set at one end, is hung with an embellished sail-cloth held by nautical knots -- the models for which were made by sailors at the Newport Training Station. This altar-hanging is etched on gold ground with subjects relating to the life of Our Lord and His Eucharist. The Wheat and the Vine are repeated over the ground; on the left curtain is the Fall of Manna; on the right, the Bringing of the Grapes from the Promised Land; above is the Last Supper with the two elements of Bread and Wine.
Within the niche over the altar are scenes connected with the early life of Our Lord: Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Presentation, Flight into Egypt, and Preaching to the Doctors. At the left side are three figures representing the Parables: The Draw-Net, The Sower, and The Good Shepherd. At the right side are three more, representing: The Leaven, The Treasure Buried in the Field, and The Lost Piece of Silver.
Below on the altar-frontal are four scenes of Christ’s ministry among fishermen and on The Sea: The Calling of the Four Fishermen Disciples, The Stilling of the Tempest, Christ Walking on the Waters, and The Sermon by the Sea of Galilee.
At either side of the Altar, the frescoes begin with the four symbolic streams representing the Four Rivers of Paradise which descend to form The Seven Seas -- the prospect of which extends around the Chapel walls. Above these rivers, flanking the Altar on either side, are poised the two archangels watching over travelers by Sea and Land. S. Michael is on the right; S. Raphael is on the left.
S. Michael’s name means “Like Unto God.” As Prince of the Angels and chief captain of the Armies of God, he wears armor and carries the sword of Righteousness. As Weigher of Souls at the Last Judgment, he holds the scales in which good and bad must stand. He is the Guide and Protector of all seamen. To him are dedicated rocky islands and coastal promontories throughout the world serving as lighthouses and sailing marks for a thousand years.
Compass of Good Qualities
on the chapel floor
A link to the Seamen's Church Institute website
People and Places