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Mysteries of the Mid-Bay

What’s with State and Church Circles?

Annapolis has a really strange layout. Is it on purpose or due to hundreds of years of use and expansion?

Church and State Circles are close together by design. Their proximity serves as an illustration that church and state were linked in Colonial times.
    The first capital of Maryland was St. Mary’s City in what is now St. Mary’s County. Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore, who founded the colony, was a Catholic, and that was unusual in those times. Most English citizens were Protestants; Catholicism was barely tolerated. Calvert founded the new colony with the ideal that people of all faiths could worship freely in Maryland, and all would be able to participate in the government. Such religious tolerance was very radical in Colonial times.
    The layout of the new city reflected such tolerance. The church and state house in St. Mary’s City are at opposite ends of the town, creating a physical separation of church and state.
    In 1696, the British monarchy decided that the capital of Maryland should be moved from St. Mary’s City to what is now Annapolis because St. Mary’s was very Catholic and Annapolis was a Protestant town.
    The church and state house in Annapolis were constructed within circles linked by a single road to reflect the union of the English church and government.
    So the next time you’re traveling through historic Annapolis, you’ll know that the road layout isn’t only to confuse tourists. It was built to send a message to Colonial Marylanders.


    Mysteries of the Mid-Bay investigates regional curiosities and landmarks to increase understanding of our unique local culture and history.
    Has a sight stymied you? Does an oddity bewilder? Your mystery may be featured in an upcoming column. Send your questions to christinakgardner@gmail.com.