Posted by: faithtravelfocus | April 20, 2010

America’s National Cathedral: A Soaring Faith Experience

Washington National Cathedral

Europe is filled with grand cathedrals of the faith, many built in the medieval Gothic style that emerged in 12th century France. Washington, DC also has a grand neogothic edifice atop Mount Saint Alban, highest point in the city. Construction began in 1907 and continued until September, 1990 – 83 years.

Washington National Cathedral – officially the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul – is one of the world’s largest houses of worship, and a don’t-miss site on any faith tour of America’s capital city.

It was Pierre L’Enfant’s 1792 “Plan of the Federal City” that set forth the idea of a “great church for national purposes.” It took more than a hundred years for such a project to get rolling, however. It was 1893 when the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation of the District of Columbia received charter from Congress to establish the cathedral.

Construction began in 1907 with President Theodore Roosevelt laying the cornerstone and ended in 1990 when the last finial was placed in the presence of President George H. W. Bush. The foundation continues to operate the cathedral and receives no government monies.

Many historical events have occurred at the cathedral, including memorial services for presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. President George W. Bush’s Inaugural Service and the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance service following the events of September 11, 2001 were in this great hall.

Cathedral interior

The cathedral’s soaring interior serves the worshiper and visitor a symphony of artistry, mind-bending architecture and a retreat for the soul. Your eyes will look up for certain. That’s what Gothic design does. It draws the observer’s gaze upward to grasp the design and symbolism. The vaulted ceiling commands the eye, but the cathedral’s collection of stained glass windows are the primary visual magnets. Though most have Biblical themes, there are some contemporary ones, such as the Space Window that contains a piece of lunar rock. There’s also a Darth Vader sculpture in one corner.

A good visit plan includes service or event attendance with a guided tour of some of the cathedral’s interior, gardens and legacy – and perhaps an encounter with the peal and carillon bells, housed in the central tower. Whether you attend a regular service, an organist’s demonstration of the great 10,650-pipe organ, a brass or choir concert, or a Christian festival event such as Christmas or Easter services, the takeaway experience will remain with you. Visit to plan your visit of both the grand interior and the grounds which includes one of the few old growth forests still standing in the capital.

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