Washington National Cathedral

3101 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, District of Columbia 20016 USA

Free
Free to Visit
Open Now
Thu 10a-5:30p
  • Credit Cards
    Accepted
  • Not Wheelchair
    Accessible
  • Public
    Restrooms
  • Outdoor
    Seating
  • No Wifi

“see the beautiful architecture and grounds”

"Next time you're in D.C., don't be surprised if some of the gargoyles on theWashington National Cathedral make you do a double-take-- I mean, most people probably don't expect to run into notorious Sith lord Darth Vader while visiting a place of worship. Those who come here not only get the power of prayer, they also have The Force backing them up. Not too shabby! Gargoyles, elegantly carved creatures that decorate buildings, also serve a practical purpose-- they deflect rainwater through a pipe running through their mouths to prevent erosion. They're mostly found on Gothic-style buildings, but even Greeks and Romans used these often-creepy creatures in their architecture as well. Carved scultptures that decorate but don't have water pipes, like our old friend Darth Vader, are technically called "grotesques".  The Cathedral has hundreds of gargoyles and thousands of grotesques adorning the building's exterior, and they're all unique. Besides Vader, which earned a spot on the dark, North side of the Cathedral after the design won a contest to create a new grotesque, there are unicorns, catterpillars, elephants, skeletons, dragons, monsters, three-headed dogs, and even people. There's a horned, stone man dubbed "The Crooked Politician", and another is nicknamed "The Yuppie". One gargoyle is a caricature of former master carver Roger Morigi and another unusual scultpture features a toothy duck wearing a heart-adorned tie that has a tourist, camera at the ready, peeking out of its mouth. Creepy. The Cathedral offers gargoyle tours, or you can take a self-guided one with the help of a brochure.  Beyond the gargoyles and grotesques, the rest of the Cathedral has a fascinating history. Construction on it started in 1907, and it wasn't completed until 1990. For a frame of reference, President Teddy Roosevelt was around when they broke ground, and George H.W. Bush was President when the final finial was laid. It's been host to the funerals of multiple Presidents, and Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his last Sunday sermon before being assassinated from the Washington National Cathedral.  Oh, and the gargoyles aren't the only crazy thing about the cathedral... Most church's stained glass windows depict scenes from the Bible...but the Washington National Cathedral isn't most churches; I mean, they have a freaking Darth Vader statue on the facade-- but the surprise inside one of their stained glass windows is even more epic: a moon rock. From the moon. Inside the window. Which is outer space-themed. The 3.6 billion year old sample (which contains a mineral that was previously unknown on Earth, pyroxferroite) was donated to the cathedral by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. The window itself, which features an abstract design of stars and planets, was donated by Dr. Thomas O. Paine, who was the NASA administrator during the Apollo 11 mission. The 7 gram rock was sealed in a nitrogen chamber between two pieces of glass, each 2.5 inches thick and banded together with steel. It was then set inside the window. Fittingly enough, a memorial service was held for Armstrong at the cathedral following his death in 2012. While the Space Window is by far the craziest stained glass window in the cathedral, it's definitely not the only one of note. While there are plenty that depict Biblical and religious scenes, others tell the story of American history. One window is dedicated to the Lewis and Clark expedition, another is about the raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima, and there are some that feature Confederate General Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. The best way to get the full story on the unique windows is to taketheir behind-the-scenes tour-- it gets you up close and personal with the colorful stained glass!" -Roadtrippers The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, popularly known as Washington National Cathedral, is a cathedral of the Episcopal Church located in Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States. Of neogothic design, it is the sixth-largest cathedral in the world, the second-largest in the United States,and the fourth-tallest structure in Washington, D.C. The cathedral is the seat of both the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, and the Bishop of the Diocese of Washington, Mariann Edgar Budde. In 2009, nearly 400,000 visitors toured the structure. Average attendance at Sunday services in 2009 was 1,667, the highest of all domestic parishes in the Episcopal Church that year. The cathedral stands at Massachusetts and Wisconsin avenues in the northwest quadrant of Washington. It is an associate member of the Washington Theological Consortium.It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2007, it was ranked third on the List of America's Favorite Architecture by the American Institute of Architects. Come see the beautiful architecture and grounds, learn more about our history, and enjoy the spectrum of spiritual and cultural activities offered year-round by Washington National Cathedral.

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Washington National Cathedral

3101 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, District of Columbia
20016 USA

Hours

Open now until 5:30 pm
  • Mon - Fri: 10:00 am - 5:30 pm
  • Sun: 7:30 am - 4:00 pm
  • Sat: 10:00 am - 4:30 pm

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  • Credit Cards Accepted
  • Not Wheelchair Accessible
  • Public Restrooms
  • Outdoor Seating
  • No Wifi
  • Street Parking
  • Private Parking
  • Yes Parking

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