When John Fitzgerald Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouvier at St. Mary’s Church in Rhode Island in 1953, the building itself was already very old, and plenty historic.
It was designed by Patrick Keeley, one of America’s most preeminent and prolific church architects, and finished in June 1849. It had served as home to the first Roman Catholic parish in the state for over 100 years before JFK and the future First Lady chose to say their vows there.
But despite all that time—and the decades since—the church still has secrets, such as the carving of a woman’s face in the picture above, which was recently uncovered during restoration of the church’s organ. The carving is a bit mysterious, Fr. Kris Maluski, the church’s pastor, told the Associated Press, because she is placed on the same level as carvings of the 12 apostles—and therefore probably depicts someone ”significant.” Church officials just don’t know who, though the pastor has a theory: Mary Magdalene, the early follower of Jesus later canonized by the Catholic Church.
Maluski is now looking at other Keeley-designed churches for similar carvings. Whether he uncovers her identity or not, the carving itself won’t be hidden for the next generation of parishioners. The new organ will be designed to provide a view of the woman, who is part of the church’s rich history and, now that she has been revealed, its future as well.