Washington National Cathedral

From Academic Kids

Washington National Cathedral was the site of two Presidential state funerals: for  and , and a presidential burial in the cathedral mausoleum: . Eisenhower lay in repose at the cathedral before lying in state. In addition, a memorial service for  took place at National Cathedral, which foreign dignitaries attended because of the advanced age of his wife, .
Washington National Cathedral was the site of two Presidential state funerals: for Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald W. Reagan, and a presidential burial in the cathedral mausoleum: Woodrow Wilson. Eisenhower lay in repose at the cathedral before lying in state. In addition, a memorial service for Harry Truman took place at National Cathedral, which foreign dignitaries attended because of the advanced age of his wife, Bess.

Washington National Cathedral, officially the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul and an Episcopal Church, is designated the national house of prayer of the United States. Concurrently, the cathedral is also the official seat of both the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA and the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, motherchurch of the Episcopal Church in the District of Columbia and Maryland counties of Charles, St. Mary's, Prince George's and Montgomery. Located at Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues, Northwest in Washington, DC, it is the sixth largest cathedral in the world and second largest in the United States. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The National Cathedral is affiliated to the government by a charter of congress, signed on January 6, 1893, but does not recieve any federal, state or city funding. The National Cathedral Association provides most funding for the cathedral.

The Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation officialy oversees the Washington National Cathedral and its sister institutions: National Cathedral School, St. Albans School, Beauvoir School, Cathedral College



The current dean of the Washington National Cathedral is the Very Reverend Samuel T. Lloyd III who officially took office on April 23, 2005. Prior to becoming dean, Lloyd was the rector of Trinity Church in Boston, Massachusetts.

The current Bishop of Washington, the Right Reverend John Bryson Chane, was formerly the dean of the St. Paul's Cathedral in San Diego, California.

Former Deans of the cathedral are:


In 1792 Pierre L'Enfant's Plan of the Federal City set aside land for a "great church for national purposes." The National Portrait Gallery now occupies that site. In 1891, a meeting was held to renew plans for a national cathedral. In 1893 the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation of the District of Columbia was granted a charter from the United States Congress to establish the cathedral. The commanding site on Mount Saint Albans was chosen. Right Reverend Henry Yates Satterlee, first Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Washington chose Frederick Bodley, England's leading Anglican church architect, as the head architect. Henry Vaughan was selected supervising architect.

Construction started September 29, 1907 with a ceremonial address by President Theodore Roosevelt and the laying of the cornerstone. In 1912, Bethlehem Chapel opened for services in the unfinished cathedral, which have continued daily ever since. When construction of the cathedral resumed after a brief hiatus for World War I, both Bodley and Vaughan had passed away. American architect Philip Hubert Frohman took over the design of the cathedral and was henceforth designated the principal architect. Funding for the National Cathedral has come entirely from private sources. Maintenance and upkeep continue to rely entirely upon private support.


The Great Organ was installed by the Ernest M. Skinner Organ Company, 1938. 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.

In 1997, the Cathedral Choir of Men and Girls was formed, using the same men as the choir of the men and boys. The two choirs currently share service duties and occasionally collaborate. The girl choristers attend the National Cathedral School on singing scholarships.

Both choirs have recently recorded several CDs, including a Christmas CD and a Patriotic CD, both of which the choirs collaborated on.

Currently, Michael McCarthy serves as Director of Music. Erik Suter is Organist and Associate Choirmaster. Scott Hanoian is Assistant Organist and Choirmaster. Former organists and choirmasters include Edgar Priest, Robert George Barrow, Paul Callaway, Richard Wayne Dirksen, Douglas Major and James Litton.

The resident symphonic chorus of the Washington National Cathedral is the Cathedral Choral Society. Every summer, the choral society performs with the National Symphony Orchestra.

National Cathedral Association (NCA)

The National Cathedral Association is an organization that seeks to provide funds and promote the Washington National Cathedral. It consists of more than 14,000 people nationwide. Subdivided into committees by state, more than 88 percent of its members live outside the Washington area. Every year, a state has a state day at the cathedral where a state is recognized by name in the prayers. Every four years, a state has a Major State Day, at which time those who live in the state are encouraged to make a pilgramage to the cathedral and dignataries from the state are invited to speak.


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Official Seal

Washington National Cathedral was completed on 29 September 1990 after almost a century of planning and 83 years in construction. Its final design shows a mix of influences from the various Gothic architectural styles of the middle ages, marked, among other things, by pointed arches, flying buttresses, vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, stonecarved decorations, and three similar towers, two on the west front and one surmounting the crossing. Its west end is reminiscent of Bristol Cathedral. It sits on a landscaped 57 acre (230,000 m²) plot on Mount Saint Alban, in northwest Washington, DC.

Washington National Cathedral consists of a long, narrow rectangular mass formed by an eight bay nave with wide side aisles and a five bay chancel, intersected by a six bay transept. Above the crossing rising 91 m (301 ft) above the ground is the Gloria in Excelsis Tower. Its top, at 206 m (676 ft) above sea level is the highest point in Washington, DC. In total, the cathedral is 115 m (375 ft) above sea level. Uniquely, the tower has two full sets of bells — a 53-bell carillon and a 10-bell peal for change ringing.

The one story porch projecting from the south transept has a large portal with a carved tympanum. This portal is approached by the Pilgrim Steps, a long flight of steps 12 m (40 ft) wide. Most of the building is constructed using gray Indiana limestone. Some concrete and structural steel were used sparingly. The interior of Washington National Cathedral abounds in architectural sculptures, wood carvings, mosaics and wrought iron pieces. There is even a gargoyle of Darth Vader on the north tower.

There are other works of art including over two hundred stained glass windows, the most familiar of which may be the Space Window, honoring man's landing on the Moon, which includes a fragment of lunar rock at its center. Most of the decorative elements have Christian symbolism, in reference to the church's Episcopalian roots, but the cathedral is filled with memorials to persons or events of national significance: statues of Washington and Lincoln, state seals embedded in the mosaic floor of the narthex, state flags that hang along the nave, stained glass commemorating events like the Lewis and Clark expedition.

National House of Prayer

Washington National Cathedral's role as the national house of prayer has over the years united Americans in several religious and secular services hosted at the site. During World War II, monthly services “on behalf of a united people in a time of emergency” were held.

Major Events

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State funeral of Ronald Reagan

Washington National Cathedral has played host to many major events, showing the cathedral's proud distinction as being "the national house of prayer for all people." Some of the major events that showed the cathedral's proud distinction include:

In addition, Washington National Cathedral's pulpit was the last one from which Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke prior to his assassination in 1968.

The services honoring Truman and Eisenhower happened during construction period. Thus, the funeral of Kay Graham was the first major event held at the cathedral since construction was completed. The 9/11 memorial service and the Reagan funeral were both interfaith services, showing the cathedral's proud distinction.

Many major events at the cathedral have been televised live worldwide. The only one that wasn't was the 9/11 memorial service. While the rest of the world saw the service at the cathedral, people in Canada saw live the simultaneous service on Parliament Hill, the largest vigil there in the nation's captial.

References in Popular Culture

  • setting of Margaret Truman's Murder at the National Cathedral
  • place of Mrs. Landingham's funeral in Season 2 finale of The West Wing Two Cathedrals
  • Cathedral Close (area in and around the cathedral) is alluded to, often, but rather vaguely, in movie Along Came a Spider

Last resting place

Washington National Cathedral and its mausoleum and columbariums are the last resting places of many notable American citizens:


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