National Cathedral / Other Churches / Temples, Washington D.C.
About a block away from the Decatur House is this yellow columned, gold domed church that was also designed by Latrobe. It was built in 1816 and was the second building on the Square.
The sign outside the church states that "Every President of the United States since President James Madison has attended occasional services here."
Metro: McPherson Square
Located at 16th and H NW, just north of the White House and Lafayette Square
I took a longer walk from the Capitol Hill to the White House but not through the National Mall which I had already crossed a few times but along streets north of the Mall to eventually get to the Treasury Department located east of the White House. I wanted to find something interesting off the most touristy itineraries and I almost failed. I walked along mostly busy and noisy streets with nothing interesting along until I suprisingly reached and discovered this tiny church with bright red entrance door built in pretty Gothic Revival style (1317 G St. NW). It opens for services only but the schedule has not been shown off outside which is unusual in the USA.
The Church of the Epiphany was founded in 1844 and during the Civil War, as most churches, played important role serving as a shelter, often the last shelter and cemetery for numerous wounded victims. Many historical sources say that DC's population was split between the North and South that time although DC was the capital of the Union.
In most American cities in 22 states I already visited I could easily find tenths churches of various religious. Thus, I was a bit surprised not to find any churches in relatively old Washington except that one and the far National Cathedral. Why? Weren't they religious or I just walked "wrong" streets.
Well, probably I walked along the wrong streets. But mostly, the center/old section of Washington doesn't have many churches because this section is the focus of the "government." Since USA specifically has a separation between church and state, a church does not play a big role in this area. Another thing, in the USA most churches are conveniently built in neighborhoods so that it is easier for the people to get to them.
The Islamic Center in Washington DC (2551 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.) is located at the edge of beautiful Rock Creek Park I visited... by car. It is the first mosque to be built in America's national capital (in 1957), and is the first large Muslim place of worship to be built in the New World. For a Muslim it's a place to pray, for a non-Muslim like me it's a place to amaze islamic architecture of the centre dominating by 49 meter (160-foot) high minaret. It's like 16-floor contemporary building.
I got to know about this place on September 17, 2001, 6 days after the terrorist attacks of pseudo-Muslim fanatics against Washington and NYC when the centre was visited by President George W. Bush that I watched in TV news. Thus I hardly found a place to park my car as soon as I had seen the mosque. Unfortunatelly I couldn't join free educational tour because they were offered only to schools, groups, and organizations and by appointment only. I could only see the mosque from the outside because I came during the service. It's open for all visitors between the times for prayer. Don't forget to dress respectfully. For ladies who wish to enter the Mosque, it is required to bring along a scarf to cover the hair, long sleeves, and if wearing a dress, that it be below the knees.
The National Cathedral is an Protestant Episcopal Church. This is on the Old Town Trolley tour route, but we didn't have time to get off. It's one of the recommended stops to see some great views of Washington from. Never mind the fact that it's a really beautiful church. Maybe next time we'll get a chance to go inside. It's on my itinerary!
Take a tour of the Washington National Chathedral, it is beautiful and worth spending time at.
After the tour stop in the little museum shop that offers unique gifts. I bought a few pencil sketches of buildings in the D.C. area including a lovey version of this Cathedral. Inside you will see this stained-glass window. It commemorates the flight of Apollo 11 and in the center you can see a piece of moon rock from the Apollo 11 mission.
Besides the Moon Rock, there is a sculpture of Darth Vader on the Cathedral and you might notice that the design of the Cathedral is based on the Chartres Cathedral in France. If interested take a look at their rare book library, it's pretty impressive.
THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL
Mount Saint Alban,
Massachusetts and Wisconsin Aves. NW
Free one hour tour.
Technically the tour is free, but a $5.00 "donation" is requested. Still, it's not a bad deal for such an interesting view of American History.
In his original plan for the city, L’Enfant included a great church for national purposes, but the foundation for the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, took over one hundred years to be laid and in time it grew to be the sixth largest cathedral in the world.
The foundation stone came from Bethlehem, was set into a larger piece of Amreican Granite and was laid in 1907. The style is English Gothic was built in the shape of a cross.
It's a beautiful Cathedral and I enjoyed the free tour. (It was free when I went.)
They also offer "Tour and Tea" almost every Tuesday and Wednesday at 1:30 pm. Reservations and payment are required a head of your visit so check your schedule before deciding to have traditional Tea with a view, in the Pilgrim Observation Gallery. They didn't offer this when I was there, but I would have taken this tour if I could.
We didn't have a chance to see the interior of this beautiful gothic cathedral and as it was raining didn't spend a whole lot of time wandering around the exterior.
I had intended to go back on a clear day to get some more photos but it is not well connected to the metro (about 1 mile away from the closest stop) and I didn't manage to revisit.
The proper title is Basicila of the National Shrine of the Immaclate Conception.
The foundation stone was place in the northwest corner of the Crypt Church in 1920. Seven years after Bishop Thomas J. Shahan recieved enthusiastic support and a personal contribution of $400.00 from Pope Pius X for the building of this shrine to the Patron Saint of the U.S.A. The Basicila is the largest Catholic church in the Americas and among the largest in the world.
The Interior of the Great Upper Church can accommodate more than 6,000 people. The Crypt Church, located below the Great Upper Church seats 400 people comfortablely. There are seventy chaples within this church.
The Crypt Church was a fascinating place that seemed reminiscent of the catacombs, to me and I recommend a tour if you are interested.
400 Michigan Avenue NE,
Washington D.C. 20017-1566
The story goes that Henry Luce (Time Inc.) was so distressed that Presbyterians might be expected to worship at the National Cathedral which, according to it's Episcopal traditions, has a "High Alter" just as one finds in a Roman Catholic Church, that he funded an "alternative", the National Presbyterian Church just a few blocks away from the National Cathedral in an effort to insure that those who chose to, had a chruch of the "reformed" faith movement, as their place of worship.
Whether the story is really true about its origins seems to depend on you who talk to, whether they already know that you are a Presbyterian before they explain the back ground and how PC they are feeling at the "thyme" (Yes a "sage" remark!!)
Indeed the lines are in keeping with the traditions of the reformed faith movement. That tradition has been expressed in a VERY modern design.
I am not sure if the building is normally open to the public or not. I sing with the VA-National Medical Musical Group. For our Flag Day Congressional Concert in 2001 we used several rooms here for our practice. I took some time to look around and snapped several pictures of the interior of the sanctuary. From a distance you get a very false impression that this is a small structure but that is due to the very simple style. It does not have the intricate, ornate, gothic sculpture that the National Cathedral has, these lines are very clean and simple giving the appearance of a small church. Once you stand by one of the MASSIVE columns in front, the reality of it's proportions sinks in.
This unique religious site near DuPont Circle is the largest mosque in the United States. Made of white limestone, this unique landmark has a 162-foot-high minaret. The amazingly beautiful interior of this Islamic religious structure features Persian rugs donated by the Shah of Iran, ceramic tiles given by Turkey, and funding provided by all of the Islamic countries of the world.
It is said the Mosque was conceived when the Turkish ambassador died in 1944 and there was no mosque nearby for the funeral. The land was purchased in 1946 and the structure, designed by an Italian architect was begun in 1949. The mosque opened in 1957 with President Eisenhower in attendance, and at the time was the largest mosque in the Western Hemisphere. On a typical Friday some 6,000 worshipers attend services throughout the day.
During our visit, we were walking down the street when a local Muslim elder stopped us and informed us we were welcome to enter as long as we removed our shoes and Laura, being female, kept her hat on in the temple. We entered the iron fence and approached the mosque to read the rules for visitors which included the aforementioned rules, plus no shorts, and no talking during Friday prayers. When we entered, we took a few quick photos while a few people prayed. We also glanced at a copy of the Koran with English translations of the Arabic texts. A few minutes later a Moroccan man approached us before his prayers and pointed out the beautiful carpets and the gold painting on the pillars. He also explained why women had to pray in a separate area so the men could focus on the prayers rather than focusing on the women. He pointed out the clock and the prayer times, showed us the main wall was in the direction of Mecca, and explained how the pulpit was used by the imam. He also told us he was waiting for another Muslim to arrive for prayers so they could pray together, which he said is much more beneficial than praying alone. After that we walked outside and saw the signs pointing to the restrooms under the mosque, so we walked down to make use of the facilities. Later we visited the bookstore, where the same Moroccan returned and explained to us why God didn't allow drinking, gambling or interest on bank accounts. Throughout our entire hour-long visit people were very friendly and welcoming with constant greetings of "Salaam" or "Salaam Alaikum," (السلام عليكم) meaning "peace" or "peace be upon you."
The mosque is open to the public, but Women must wear headscarves and all guests must remove their shoes. Shorts may not be worn in the masjid. Like in other religious structures, be respectful, courteous, and quiet.
In the same compound with the mosque you will find a bookstore with numerous Islamic books in various languages, along with interesting Muslim bumper stickers reminding people not to drink or gamble. Downstairs under the mosque are some classrooms, a smaller prayer room, and men's and women's restrooms complete with foot washers and old-fashioned squatter commodes.
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is far off the beaten path, but is one of the most impressive structures in the city, certainly rivaling the more famous architecture on the National Mall. The church was begun in 1920 and the great upper church was dedicated in 1959 (though not really completed until 1965). This is the tallest building in Washington, the largest catholic church in the US, and the seventh or eighth largest religious building in the world. Rather illogically, it was dedicated as a national historic landmark before it was even completed. The Basilica is 459 feet long, 240 feet wide, and 237 feet tall. The diameter of the main dome is just slightly smaller than the dome on the Capitol Building.
Sharing this location with the basilica is the Catholic University of America. This school is the official national university of the Roman Catholic Church and the only catholic university founded by US Roman Catholic bishops. The school was established in 1887 and officially began undergraduate classes in 1904. Catholic University has some 6000 students participating in 83 undergraduate, 90 graduate, and 42 doctoral programs. CU occupies 193 acres, making it the city's largest school in terms of land area.
The university and the basilica are located in the Brookland neighborhood of Northwest Washington DC. This area is home to some 60 Catholic institutions and is sometimes referred to a Little Rome.
Catholic University is located at 620 Michigan Ave NE and is accessible via the Brookland-CUA metro station on the Metro's Red Line.
Holy Trinity Church and St. Ignatius Chapel are part of the same church and are located on the same block near the university in Georgetown. The chapel is a beautiful white building with a square tower leading up tot an octagonal belfry. The original church here was founded by Archbishop John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop in America and a cousin of Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Archbishop Carroll also established Georgetown University in 1789.
The Chapel of St. Ignatius is known as the first Roman Catholic house of worship to existing the area that is now Washington DC. It was established in 1794 just before the capitol city was established, and it is the oldest church in continuous operation in Washington. The chapel was expanded in 1870 and converted to a school; it was not until 1999 that the chapel was restored to nearly its original design.
Holy Trinity's main church was built from 1849 to 1851 in an unusual Greco-Roman style. It was later used as a hospital during the Civil War, and it is now famous as Kennedy's local church while he was a member of the House of Representatives and during his time as a Senator. This is also where he attended his last mass in the city before his assassination in 1963.
It is also said that Vice President Joe Biden occasionally attends church services here.
While many assume the Washington Monument or Capital Dome is the highest building in D.C., the reality is that the highest belongs to the National Cathedral. The Cathedral's location was part of the original plan of D.C, on the highest point in the city.
National Cathedral -- 676 feet high
Washington Monument -- 555 feet high, 55 feet square at the base.
Old Post Office Pavilian -- 315 feet high clock tower.
Capital Dome -- 288 feet high (including 19 foot statue)
Although the Cathedral isn't Catholic, or old, or particularly famous, it does host a variety of public religious events, including state funerals, grand Christmas concerts and is, in true American fashion, not aligned with one particular denomination.
It was built by the last of the old-world craftsmen, without morter, in stone, in high gothic. Truly an architects dream to witness the last of the true great Cathedrals.
It's quite a nice walk from the Zoo metro station to the Cathedral, although it is about a mile. Check out a map for more information.
- The structure's masonry is all self-supporting, and uses no structural steel.
- Like many of Europe's gothic churches, the National Cathedral has a variety of fearsome-looking gargoyles, but with a modern touch - one is a stylized businessman holding a briefcase.
- Contains the tomb of President Woodrow Wilson.
- Second-largest church in America, after Saint John the Divine in New York City.
- This cathedral weighs 150,000 tons.
- There are 110 gargoyles on this structure, one of which is built in the likeness of Darth Vader of the Star Wars movie franchise fame.
- There are 215 stained glass windows in the cathedral.
- The principal stone used in the construction of the cathedral is Indiana limestone.
The cathedral stands on a 57 acre plot of land on Mount Saint Albans in Northwest Washington at the corner of Wisconsin and Massachusetts Avenues. It is 400 feet above sea level. It is the sixth largest cathedral in the world, second largest in the USA. The top of the tower is the highest point in DC. It is open to the public daily from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm. There are guided tours available led by docents running on Monday through Saturday at 10:00 am and 12:45 pm. On Sundays the tour starts at 12:30 pm. Behind the scenes tours are also available on Monday through Saturday at 10:30 am and 1:30 pm. Sundays this tour starts at 1:30 pm.
On Saturdays there is a Medieval Workshop for families lasting from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
The Pilgrim Observation Gallery has a High Tea every Tuesday and Wednesday (price: $15)