Though many may be surprised to discover the National Cathedral is not a Catholic church, we still think this beautiful church is worth talking about. As our country goes through this period of national transition, let us all turn our attention and prayers to the providential, sovereign Lord of creation. The Washington National Cathedral is a beacon of hope in our nation’s capital and a reminder of the beliefs on which this great country was built.
In 1791, George Washington, the first president of the United States, commissioned French architect Pierre L’Enfant to draft a plan for Washington D.C. In his design of the new capital, Pierre L’Enfant set aside land for a church for national functions. This was the birth of the national cathedral, one of the most stunning pieces of architecture in the U.S. However, George Washington later fired Pierre L’Enfant after a series of disputes. For more than a century after the firing of Pierre L’Enfant, Washington D.C. existed without a comprehensive plan. However, in the late 1800s, Pierre L’Enfant’s original plan was revisited. His idea of a national cathedral was revised in 1891 and construction began in the early 1900s. Despite being such an iconic piece of architecture, many people do not know much about the Washington National Cathedral.
Here are 7 things you probably didn’t know about the Washington National Cathedral
1. The official name of the Washington National Cathedral is the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. It features a 53-bell carillon, numerous stone carvings, stained glass windows, and the largest pipe organ in D.C.
2. The cathedral is constructed of Indiana limestone. Its design was inspired by English style gothic cathedrals with ribbed vaults, flying buttresses, and pointed arches. Compared with most cathedrals in Europe, the Washington Cathedral was built in a relatively short period; 83 years. This cathedral is the sixth largest in the world measuring 500 feet long and 301 feet high.
3. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr, the cathedral sits on 51 acres and comprises a parish church, library, elementary school, boy and girl schools, and offices of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.
4. Even though its name features the word “national” and its designated as the National House of Prayer, the Washington National Cathedral does not receive any money from the federal government. In addition, the church is the official seat of the Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the U.S. as well as the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. However, the Washington National Cathedral does not receive money from the church either.
5. Private funds were used in the construction of the church. Its current operations are supported by revenue generated by its shops as well as gifts and donations.
6. The church’s foundation stone was laid on the east side of the site of the church on September 29, 1907. The foundation stone comprises a small stone obtained from a Quarry near the Church of the Holy Nativity in Bethlehem inserted into a larger American granite stone. The foundation stone was later covered over to symbolize the unseen mysteries of the Christian faith.
7. The church features many stained-glass windows. The most popular is the “Scientists and Technicians” window more popularly known as the Space Window. This window is located on the south side of the nave and features a piece of rock obtained from the moon and brought back to earth by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
The Washington National Cathedral has so many beautiful and interesting features that may not all be covered in a single visit. The more you explore, the more you discover.