By DullesMoms, June 2023
While construction of the Washington National Cathedral began in 1907, it wasn’t completed until 1990 when 41st President George H. Bush oversaw the laying of the final stone in 1990. Despite those 8+ decades, ask any local, and it seems like it’s always been a part of Washington, DC’s cultural fabric.
As the sixth largest in the world, the National Cathedral stands as a testament to the grandeur of Gothic architecture. Originating from centuries-old building techniques that have their roots in the Middle Ages, this magnificent structure has drawn eyes skyward for generations.
Its edifice isn’t just another church — it’s a piece of history waiting to be explored. The design, chosen by the first Episcopal bishop of Washington (Satterlee), mirrors 14th Century English Gothic architecture. Satterlee firmly believed that the Gothic design was God’s preferred architectural style.
The National Cathedral’s allure doesn’t stop with its beauty, it offers a wide variety of sightseeing and educational tour opportunities:
Venture at your leisure with a self-guided brochure or the digital app, allowing you to absorb the Cathedral’s wonders at your own pace.
Ideal for first-timers, this short, docent-led tour introduces visitors to the Cathedral’s iconic features.
Insider Access Tours
Crave a deeper dive? Embark on an adventurous tour that guides you through hidden staircases and offers exclusive glimpses into the Cathedral’s unseen treasures.
Led by knowledgeable docents, these tours offer focused insights on specific aspects of the Cathedral, from historical voices to intricate architectural details.
Perfect for smaller groups seeking a more intimate experience.
Journey through concealed stairwells, past captivating stained glass and endearing gargoyles, culminating in a panoramic view from the capital’s highest geographical point.
In addition to these explorative tours, the Cathedral extends unique experiences for families and tech enthusiasts:
Cathedral Explorer Packs
Tailored for children aged 6-10, these packs are designed to make the Cathedral a delightful playground. With a special map, a toolbelt, and activities, young visitors are encouraged to interact and discover the Cathedral’s magic.
Augmented Reality Experience
Dive into the digital age by crafting your very own stained glass window design. Once sketched, use an app to virtually place your artwork within the Cathedral!
Interactive Stained Glass Exhibit
Dive deep into the meticulous work of artist Rowan LeCompte. With a touchscreen kiosk, visitors can closely inspect over 50 of LeCompte’s stunning windows and uncover the secrets behind their creations.
And lastly, don’t forget to visit the church’s grounds and gardens, called the “Cathedral Close.” Open from dusk until dawn, guests are invited to explore its 59 acres, featuring:
The Bishop’s Garden boasts a terraced landscape inspired by medieval walled gardens, showcasing sculptures, plants of historical and biblical significance, and native flora.
Cathedral Garth & All Souls Memorial Garden
The Cathedral Garth serves as a tranquil area featuring an abstract fountain. Nearby, the All Souls Memorial Garden offers in-ground burial for cremated remains and deserves utmost respect during visits.
This 20-foot tall Celtic cross, made from limestone, commemorates the Spanish American War’s conclusion.
This sculpture represents the Prodigal Son parable. Previously showcased in renowned museums, it now rests under an ancient weeping cherry tree, providing an intimate viewing experience.
The Shadow House
This octagonal garden gazebo offers eight unique garden vistas through its arched windows. A bronze statue of Baby Pan stands at its entrance, paying tribute to Rowan LeCompte, a famed stained glass artist.
These woods stand as the remaining trace of a vast oak and beech forest on Mount St. Alban. It features a stone pathway, a contemplative circle, native plants, and is a sanctuary for migratory birds.
Initially used for outdoor services during the Cathedral’s construction, the restored amphitheater now graces visitors with its curved stone walls and grass pathways.
Washington National Cathedral • Wash, DC (Map)
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