Washington National Cathedral

Washington, D.C., United States

The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul is a cathedral of the Episcopal Church located in Washington, D.C. The Neo-Gothic design was closely modeled on English Gothic style of the late 14th century. It is the sixth-largest cathedral in the world, the second-largest in the United States, and the highest as well as the fourth-tallest structure in Washington, D.C.

The Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation erected the cathedral under a charter passed by the United States Congress in 1893. Construction began in 1907, when the foundation stone was laid in the presence of President Theodore Roosevelt and a crowd of more than 20,000, and ended 83 years later when the 'final finial' was placed in the presence of President George H. W. Bush in 1990. Decorative work, such as carvings and statuary, is ongoing as of 2011. The Foundation is the legal entity of which all institutions on the Cathedral Close are a part; its corporate staff provides services for the institutions to help enable their missions, conducts work of the Foundation itself that is not done by the other entities, and serves as staff for the Board of Trustees.

Most of the building is constructed using a buff-colored Indiana limestone over a traditional masonry core. Structural, load-bearing steel is limited to the roof's trusses (traditionally built of timber); concrete is used significantly in the support structures for bells of the central tower, and the floors in the west towers.

The pulpit was carved out of stones from Canterbury Cathedral in United Kingdom. Glastonbury Abbey provided stone for the bishop's formal seat. The high altar, the Jerusalem Altar, is made from stones quarried at Solomon's Quarry near Jerusalem, reputedly where the stones for Solomon's Temple were quarried. In the floor directly in front of that altar are set ten stones from the Chapel of Moses on Mount Sinai, representing the Ten Commandments as a foundation for the Jerusalem Altar.

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Details

Founded: 1907-1990
Category: Religious sites in United States

Rating

4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Matthew Martinez (3 months ago)
Tip: book tickets in advance! This majestic, Gothic-style Cathedral contains a new century's desire to serve as a place of reflection, worship, and community. We pray for new presidents taking office and we pray for presidents that pass away at this cathedral. The beauty enshrined needs special guidance from the knowledgeable highlights tour. The stained-glass windows contain contemporary ideas fused with old techniques. The main circular stained-glass window contains the moments after "God said: let there be light" from Genesis. It captures the wonder of those words along with the artist's idea of the Big Bang. There is another stained-glass window that contains a piece of moon rock and planets around the display. President Woodrow Wilson is interred at the cathedral. The surrounding columns truly capture the old-world style and give a sense of wonder with the space. The ambulatory contains many beautiful works and a POW/MIA chapel. The main altar contains Jesus at the center with the various ways His followers can inherit the Kingdom mentioned in Matthew 25. The crypt contains more beautiful chapels. Take the elevator up to see the DC skyline. The beauty of the façade can be appreciated with ample time to see all of the splendor the builders wanted to capture. Take time to find Darth Vader as well.
Christopher Hansen (4 months ago)
The National Cathedral was full of so much love that my soul radiated and filled my spirit with hope and love. I was in town with friends to march at the March For Our Lives, and we paid respects to Parkland school at the national Vigil. While attending, after the services, I met the priest, and he was a gem. He let me know about the Pulse Vigil held at the same location, and he was also the same man that laid Matthew Shepard to rest peacefully a couple months back. So much love, faith, history, and art to experience. If you like this post, please give thumbs up and like. Thank you.
M Brewbocker (4 months ago)
This is a national treasure. I felt overwhelmed by the beauty, solemnity, and power. I am amazed that a structure created by man can create such a sublime experience. The staff were very helpful and the tour was super informative. Well worth 12 bucks.
Edward Blum (4 months ago)
A magnificent building, on one of the highest points in Washington. One of the largest venues for speeches, music and funerals. Acoustics have been improved, especially with electronic assistance - so even chamber music and smaller singing groups are relatively audible and clear. Now has a large underground parking garage to augment the few parking places on the grounds.
Kathy Kilgore (5 months ago)
Sunday worship anywhere is essential but to worship at the cathedral - well, I have no words grand enough to explain. We were greeted as sisters in Christ, not as visitors. We praised Jesus in song and prayer and listened to the sermon, then praised more! I sincerely wish every person on this earth would come to know Jesus as Lord, so visit the cathedral the next time you are in DC, and visit a local church this week. The stained glass windows were beautiful. The variety of worship spaces within the cathedral was a surprise, ranging from small intimate chapels to the prime sanctuary. Every inch of this glorious space has been decorated to bring Glory to God. I hope you can experience it first hand soon
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Reims Cathedral

Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Reims) is the seat of the Archdiocese of Reims, where the kings of France were crowned. The cathedral replaced an older church, destroyed by fire in 1211, that was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. That original structure had itself been erected on the site of some Roman baths. A major tourism destination, the cathedral receives about one million visitors annually.

History

Excavations have shown that the present building occupies roughly the same site as the original cathedral, founded c. 400 under the episcopacy of St Nicaise. That church was rebuilt during the Carolingian period and further extended in the 12th century. On 19 May 1051, King Henry I of France and Anne of Kiev were married in the cathedral.

On May 6, 1210 the cathedral was damaged by fire and reconstruction started shortly after, beginning at the eastern end. Documentary records show the acquisition of land to the west of the site in 1218, suggesting the new cathedral was substantially larger than its predecessors, the lengthening of the nave presumably being an adaptation to afford room for the crowds that attended the coronations. In 1233 a long-running dispute between the cathedral chapter and the townsfolk (regarding issues of taxation and legal jurisdiction) boiled over into open revolt. Several clerics were killed or injured during the resulting violence and the entire cathedral chapter fled the city, leaving it under an interdict (effectively banning all public worship and sacraments). Work on the new cathedral was suspended for three years, only resuming in 1236 after the clergy returned to the city and the interdict was lifted following mediation by the King and the Pope. Construction then continued more slowly. The area from the crossing eastwards was in use by 1241 but the nave was not roofed until 1299 (when the French King lifted the tax on lead used for that purpose). Work on the west facade took place in several phases, which is reflected in the very different styles of some of the sculptures. The upper parts of the facade were completed in the 14th century, but apparently following 13th century designs, giving Reims an unusual unity of style.

Unusually the names of the cathedral's original architects are known. A labyrinth built into floor of the nave at the time of construction or shortly after (similar to examples at Chartres and Amiens) included the names of four master masons (Jean d'Orbais, Jean-Le-Loup, Gaucher de Reims and Bernard de Soissons) and the number of years they worked there, though art historians still disagree over who was responsible for which parts of the building. The labyrinth itself was destroyed in 1779 but its details and inscriptions are known from 18th century drawings. The clear association here between a labyrinth and master masons adds weight to the argument that such patterns were an allusion to the emerging status of the architect (through their association with the mythical artificer Daedalus, who built the Labyrinth of King Minos). The cathedral also contains further evidence of the rising status of the architect in the tomb of Hugues Libergier (d. 1268, architect of the now-destroyed Reims church of St-Nicaise). Not only is he given the honor of an engraved slab; he is shown holding a miniature model of his church (an honor formerly reserved for noble donors) and wearing the academic garb befitting an intellectual.

The towers, 81 m tall, were originally designed to rise 120m. The south tower holds just two great bells; one of them, named “Charlotte” by Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine in 1570, weighs more than 10,000 kg.

During the Hundred Years' War the cathedral was under siege by the English from 1359 to 1360. After it fell the English held Reims and the Cathedral until 1429 when it was liberated by Joan of Arc which allowed the Dauphin Charles to be crowned king on 17 July 1429.

In 1875 the French National Assembly voted £80,000 for repairs of the façade and balustrades. The façade is the finest portion of the building, and one of the great masterpieces of the Middle Ages.

German shellfire during the opening engagements of the First World War on 20 September 1914 burned, damaged and destroyed important parts of the cathedral. Scaffolding around the north tower caught fire, spreading the blaze to all parts of the carpentry superstructure. The lead of the roofs melted and poured through the stone gargoyles, destroying in turn the bishop's palace. Images of the cathedral in ruins were used during the war as propaganda images by the French against the Germans and their deliberate destruction of buildings rich in national and cultural heritage. Restoration work began in 1919, under the direction of Henri Deneux, a native of Reims and chief architect of the Monuments Historiques; the cathedral was fully reopened in 1938, thanks in part to financial support from the Rockefellers, but work has been steadily going on since.

Exterior

The three portals are laden with statues and statuettes; among European cathedrals, only Chartres has more sculpted figures. The central portal, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is surmounted by a rose window framed in an arch itself decorated with statuary, in place of the usual sculptured tympanum. The 'gallery of the kings' above shows the baptism of Clovis in the centre flanked by statues of his successors.

The facades of the transepts are also decorated with sculptures. That on the North has statues of bishops of Reims, a representation of the Last Judgment and a figure of Jesus (le Beau Dieu), while that on the south side has a modern rose window with the prophets and apostles. Fire destroyed the roof and the spires in 1481: of the four towers that flanked the transepts, nothing remains above the height of the roof. Above the choir rises an elegant lead-covered timber bell tower that is 18 m tall, reconstructed in the 15th century and in the 1920s.

Interior

The interior comprises a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. It has interesting stained glass ranging from the 13th to the 20th century. The rose window over the main portal and the gallery beneath are of rare magnificence.

The cathedral possesses fine tapestries. Of these the most important series is that presented by Robert de Lenoncourt, archbishop under François I (1515-1547), representing the life of the Virgin. They are now to be seen in the former bishop's palace, the Palace of Tau. The north transept contains a fine organ in a flamboyant Gothic case. The choir clock is ornamented with curious mechanical figures. Marc Chagall designed the stained glass installed in 1974 in the axis of the apse.

The treasury, kept in the Palace of Tau, includes many precious objects, among which is the Sainte Ampoule, or holy flask, the successor of the ancient one that contained the oil with which French kings were anointed, which was broken during the French Revolution, a fragment of which the present Ampoule contains.

Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral, the former Abbey of Saint-Remi, and the Palace of Tau were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1991.