Religious Freedom Byway

Discover America's roots of "religious toleration" across historic and peaceful landscapes.

Woodland Indian Discovery Days, Historic St. Mary's City
One of many historic churches along the path of religious freedom, Maryland

Along the way, encounter the rich culture of the byway by touring centers of religious and historical significance in the area – each demonstrating the religious independence of past and present Maryland residents. 

Your 1st Day: Historic Outposts, Churches & Homes

Port Tobacco

Port Tobacco was a missionary outpost established by one of the colony’s original Jesuit settlers.

Christ Church-Durham Parish

Dating to 1692, one of the original 30 parishes the Church of England chartered in Maryland.

Smallwood State Park

The estate of General William Smallwood, a Revolutionary War hero and fourth governor of Maryland, is the centerpiece of the park, which also has a marina.

Myrtle Grove Wildlife Management Area

Offering hunting, fishing and hiking around a 23-acre lake.

Your 2nd Day: The Birth of “Separation of Church and State”

Mt. Carmel

Site of the first nunnery in the colonies, founded in 1790.

St. Ignatius Catholic Church and St. Thomas Manor

The church, founded in 1641, has remained active longer than any other parish in the country. The manor house, constructed a century later, is the oldest Jesuit residence in continuous use in the world.

St. Clement’s Island & Museum

The first Catholic Mass in the British-American colonies was observed here. Today, the island is a 40-acre state park on which a 40-foot-tall cross honors those first colonists who, in 1634, conceptualized the separation of church and state.

Your 3rd Day: Monuments & Sacred Sites

St. Francis Xavier Church

The oldest Roman Catholic Church in the state, the present structure is believed to have been built in 1767.

St. George’s Episcopal Church in Valley Lee

The oldest Episcopal parish in Maryland, St. George’s has held services since 1638.

Historic St. Mary’s City

Maryland’s capital from 1634 to 1695, it was the fourth permanent English settlement in America, and site of the first Catholic chapel in the colonies.

Freedom of Conscience Monument

A monument commemorating a 1649 Act passed by the Maryland General Assembly that mandated religious toleration of all Trinitarians.

Point Lookout State Park

Offering beaches, a boat launch, fishing areas and campgrounds.  During the Civil War, Point Lookout was a notorious prison camp where more than 4,000 Confederate soldiers died.

Related: 
History & Culture
Scenic Drives