The most impressive part of the North Elevation of the National Cathedral is a rose window put on the end of the northern transept. A rose window, the charactaristic feauture of Gothic churches, is a circular stained glass window, with mullions and traceries generally radiating from the centre. Its origin is to be found in the Roman oculus (the round opening in the top of the dome of the Pantheon in Rome, Italy). During the Romanesque period, the oculus became a window. Later, from about the middle of the twelfth century dimensions of the window began to increase with the development of Gothic architecture.
The Washington national Cathedral has three rose windows of which the north rose window, with "The Last Judgment", is the largest stained glass window at 8 m (26 feet) in diameter (almost 4 + half matcrazy1 :-). Indeed, it's a huge window but from the distance or from down it doesn't look so huge. Well, it's difficult to believe at first that the transept itself is as high as 10-floor high building.
I paid attention to numerous works of art in the Washington National Cathedral: wood carvings, architectural sculptures, mosaics and wrought iron pieces. There are also more than 1,500 separate pieces of needlepoint in the Cathedral, some of them are very large in size. Needlepoint is a form of canvas work created on a mesh canvas, something of a dying art.
Rose window is a round window with a rose-like pattern. Washington National Cathedral has three rose windows of which the West Rose above the west front portal, called the Creation Rose, is made of more than 10,500 pieces of stained glass.
An extraordinary artist Rowan LeCompte spent over 30 years creating 45 of the 215 stained glass windows in the cathedral. He completed the 25 feet (7.6 m) in diameter Creation Rose in 1976. It is an abstract depiction of the mystery of creation. I must admit that noone can see that from the down as the window is too high (like on, say the 6th floor) to see any details.
I like an organ (Johann Sebastian Bach :-), saxophone (Kenny G = Kenneth Gorelick :-) and trumpet (Louis Armstrong :-) most of all single musical instruments I have ever heard. Thus I certainly wanted to hear sounds of the 10,650-pipe Great Organ in the Washington National Cathedral. But the organ recitals were given excusively on Sunday after 5 pm (check up-to-date schedule here).
Instead I've seen texts of some songs in books which were put on chairs and Reuter Organ put in the nave. This chamber organ was built in 1963 by the ReuterOrgan Company in Lawrence, Kansas. The instrument contains five ranks of pipes, unified over two manuals and pedals. Its wheeled platform allows it to be placed anywhere in the cathedral's nave. It's used primarily to accompany choral and orchestral ensembles.
In the cathedral's store I've seen numerous CDs with organ music as well as choral and bell's music. Hmm... they cost $15 - $20 per one. I've got to know that there are two cathedral's choirs:
- the Washington National Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys (founded in 1909) is currently one of very few cathedral choirs of men and boys in the United States with an affiliated school, in the English tradition. The 18-22 boys singing treble are ages 8-14 and attend St. Albans School, the Cathedral school for boys, on singing scholarships.
- the Cathedral Choir of Men and Girls, formed In 1997.
Check the up-to-date concert schedule in the cathedral here
The rose Space Window with the stained glass called “Scientists and Technicians Window” commemorates man’s first steps on the moon and America’s exploration of space. It's put on the south aisle of the Washington National Cathedral and contains a piece of lunar rock that was presented to the Cathedral by the astronauts of Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing mission in 1969. A 7.18-gram basalt lunar rock from the Sea of Tranquility is put in the upper center of the window but I certainly couldn't see it from the down. But I saw and touched the lunar rock in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in downtown.
I thought over how many lunar rocks were broght from the Moon and where they are displayed. Once I saw a few small lunar rocks in Olsztyn Planetary and Space Observatory, Poland brought by Apollo missions. They together with the Polish national flag which was on the Moon were a gift of US president Nixon. Well, two weeks later I visited Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center southeast of Houston, Texas and the Apollo 11 Mission Control Center. I've got to know that between 1969 and 1972 six Apollo missions brought back 382 kilograms (842 pounds) of lunar rocks, pebbles, core samples, sand and dust from the lunar surface. Add samples broght from the Moon by three automated Soviet spacecrafts (well, only 300 grams in total). Check where the lunar rocks are displayed here
I coudn't take a good picture of the whole southern side of the Washington National Cathedral because it's located almost on the edge of downhill of Mount Saint Alban covered by the Bishop's Garden. And keep in mind that the exterior of the Cathedral is almost the length of two football fields. I've got to know that the Cathedral weighs 150,000 tons that is like a crowd of 1,700,000 matcrazies1 or many more matcrazies0 :-).
The southern facade was my favourite place to look for and amaze numerous architectural details like flying buttresses, gargoyles, grotesques and other stone-carved decorations. Flying buttress is a support connected with a wall by an arch, needed to hold up the high walls of a heavy Gothic cathedral.
The southern transept of the Washington National Cathedral ends with facade with impressive portal over steps and huge southern rose window called the Space Window or "Scientists and Technicians Window" above. Its side walls are supported by well seen, powerful flying buttresses.
Most of the cathedral is constructed using gray Indiana limestone. Some concrete and structural steel were used as well. The average piece of stone weighs 136 kg (300 pounds). I am not surprised that the the total cost of building the Cathedral was $65 million. Well it's less than $100 per one VT member.
I had to walk a bit up to get to the cathedral. First I saw its North Elevation. It is well seen from the distance and gives a visitor good orientation on how the cathedral is designed. Washington National Cathedral is a cross-shaped church and consists of a very long rectangular west-east oriented mass intersected by a transept put closer to the back (eastern) side of the edifice, look here.
There are two 71 m (234 ft) high towers put symmetrically at the west front of the cathedral and there is one, similar in design, central tower called from Latin the Gloria in Excelsis Tower put above the crossing. This tower is 91 m (301 ft) high. Hmm... it's like 30-floor contemporary building. Its top, at 206 m (676 ft) above sea level is the highest point in Washington, D.C., with the Pilgrim Observation Gallery providing a sweeping view of the city. No worries, a fog makes the view more mysterious haha. In total, the cathedral is 115 m (375 ft) above sea level.
There is the modest in size baptistry next to the southern entrance to the Washington national Cathedral. Well, I used to see large baptistries, sometimes forming the seperate building in Europe, like for example the famous and the most impressive baptistry I have ever seen in Parma, Italy. Well, this one in the National Cathedral is decorated with reliefs depicting symbols representing baptism. Tennessee pink marble is used in the baptistry font.
There is the second cathedral's stone and square pulpit decorated with reliefs. It's located close to the southern entrance (open my next pictures).
I entered the National Cathedral through the North Transept.
At first, I saw on a wall: US national flag by a white marble tablet erected by the Daughter of the American Revolution "To the glory of God and in honour of the signers of the constitution of the United States of America." The tablet showed the list of signatories of the United States Constitution - 39 names from 12 states. Well, I've heard only two names: Benjamin Franklin (from Pennsylvania) and surely George Washington (Virginia). I saw the original US Constitution in the National Archives 4 days earlier. I was surprised that delegates from 12 not 13 states signed the constitution. I knew that there were 13 states that time. Well, no delegate from Rhode Island signed the document, since the state declined to send a representative. I have no idea why such a lovely, tiny state didn't want the constitution. Do you know?
Then I saw a white marble grave. Well, the cathedral is a burial place of more than 80 famous Americans (not complete list here) including Thomas Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States (1913-1921) and the only one burried in D.C. Before my trip I wrongly thought that all or almost all US presidents had been burried in the Arlington Cemetery. In fact, they are burried in different places often where they had their roots.
Finally I saw wide and very, very long northern side aisle.
When I finally managed to park my car (details in my Warnings Or Dangers tip) in Cleveland Park and got off the car first of all my ears relaxed and enjoyed loud sing of somewhere hidden birds. I was in an upclass, green district full of fall trees and pretty houses. Up the street I saw towers of the Washington National Cathedral partly hidden behind trees.
It was somewhat mysterious and very, very relaxing picture after seeing - all the time in downtown - huge federal buildings either boring or copied from masters of classical ancient European architecture.
The grounds upon which the Washington National Cathedral stands are called "a close." I found it a bit strange. As I know, in Shakespeare's language the noun close means a road, usually with private houses, not open at one end. Anyway, this fifty-nine acres area is home to the offices of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, 3 schools, a college, Bishop's Garden and St. Alban Church.
I passed by the Sayre House, Cathedral Library, College of Preachers and houses with entrances decorated with pumpkins for incoming Halloween. The stone and interesting building of the Sayre House is named after Francis B. Sayre, Jr., the grandson of President Woodrow Wilson and the Dean of the Washington National Cathedral from 1951 to 1978.
An equastrian statue of the first president of the United States stands at the base of the broad, stone Pilgrim Steps. The stairs starts up opposite to the southetn entrance to the Washington National Cathedral and goes down through the Bishop's Garden. The monument itself didn't look great. However I found it interesting that despite at least 3 monuments/memorials in DC, George Washington lived in Mount Vernon, Virginia 16 miles south of Washington, DC and rarely visited the capital city.
I walked South Road from the West Facade along the southern elevation of the Washington National Cathedral. First I visited a charming shop located in the Herb Cottage (details in my shopping tip) and saw pretty tiny sculpture of a child by the cottage (open my next pictures). Then I walked along a stone wall to the gate located just opposite to the southern transept facade. It led me to the Bishop's Garden and downstairs the broad, stone Pilgrim Steps to an equestrian statue of George Washington.
The Bishop's Garden located on quite steep southern downhill of Mount Saint Alban is modelled in a medieval walled garden. Well, the garden looked somewhat wild and mysterious in foggy and partly rainy weather. There were not many flowers in bloom to see in October. However I liked a stone circular pavillon put among green, wild-looking bushes and trees.
The Bethlehem Chapel is absolutely the most beautiful place I have seen in the Washington National Cathedral. The cathedral foundation stone which came from a field near Bethlehem and was inset into a larger piece of American granite was laid in this place. The underground chapel located below the nave was the first completed part of the cathedral, opened for services in 1912. There hasn't been a day, even one, without a holy service in the chapel since that time.
The Gothic chapel contains symbols and depictions of the birth and genealogy of Jesus.Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the West Bank (Israel now) which has great significance to the Christian religion as it is believed to be the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. But I was most amazed by vaulted ceilings with ribs and supporting columns. I paid attention to boss stones. A boss is a projecting stone at the intersection of ribs, frequently elaborately carved. There are 762 boss stones in the cathedral, 640 located on the nave level but being on the 10-floor height they are not well seen there.
Traditionally just in this chapel funeral ceremonies of various famous Americans took place. Here the body of US president Dwight D. Eisenhower and other famous Americans laid in repose for at least 24 hours. Remains of another US president Woodrow Wilson were originally buried in the Bethlehem Chapel but in 1956, celebrating the centennial of his birth, the Cathedral authorities arranged for his removal to this sarcophagus in the south aisle of the nave proper.
Gargoyle is a waterspout, usually in the form of an ugly creature, sticking out from the gutter of a building. I wonder whether you know how it's called in your native language (if it's not English). I didn't know the Polish name but now I know that it derives from unpleasant word vomitting :-). Anyway, I had a lot of fun looking for and taking pictures (zoom needed) of these funny stone creatures on the southern facade of the Washington National Cathedral.
Grotesques are often confused with gargoyles. But these strange, fantastic, ugly or bizarre stone carvings are not born from the general form of a water spout. Rather, they may take any number of upright positions. I have found a few grotesques, although gargoyles, not grotesques rule on the Washington cathedral's walls. I've found numerous copies of them in the cathedral's store.