The National Cathedral in Washington DC

Rich History in Washington DC

If you’ve driven through the streets of Washington, D.C. I’m sure you’ve noticed there is a lot of history to be seen. From the monuments on the National Mall to Arlington Cemetery, Mount Vernon (although a bit off the beat path for some tourists), to a giant structure that can be seen from many rooftops, the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Dioceses of Washington, known to many as the Washington National Cathedral. Washington, D.C. is full of rich history and the Washington Cathedral does not disappoint.


The Washington National Cathedral is a Neo-Gothic designed modeled after English Gothic styles from the late fourteenth century. It is the second largest church in the entire United States and the fourth tallest structure in Washington, D.C. The tallest Structure being the Washington Monument on our National Mall. Not to be confused with the tallest building in Washington, D.C. which is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The Construction

Construction began on the Neo-Gothic Cathedral on September 29, 1907. Theodore Roosevelt was in attendance as the first foundation stone was laid to rest in front of over 20,000 onlookers. The final stone was not set until September 29, 1990 with President George H. W. Bush in attendance, 83 years later. The Washington National Cathedral is located in northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C. at Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenue.

The Space Window

There are 112 gargoyles and 215 stained glass windows there is even a piece of lunar rock locked on the south aisle of the Cathedral, this is known as The Space Window. There’s even a sculpture of Darth Vader! Yup! You read that right, Darth Vader! In the 1980’s the Cathedral decided to hold a nationwide competition for children. The winner selected was Christopher Rader who had submitted a drawing of Star Wars’ Darth Vader. Even though Christopher’s sketch only came in third place, Darth Vader was sculpted by Jay Carpenter and carved by Patrick J Plunkett and placed in the northwest tower of the Cathedral.

Cool Facts

Here are some cool facts about the National Cathedral, located in Washington. D.C. The Cathedral is home to one of the very few remaining old growth forests still standing in Washington, D.C. The forest was designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead, Jr. It cost a cool $65 million dollars to build the Cathedral and none of that money came from the Federal Government nor the National Episcopal Church. That’s right, the National Cathedral does not receive money from our federal government. The average weight of a single piece of stone used in the building weights 300 pounds, the Cathedral is thought to weigh a whopping 150,000 tons! The largest stained-glass window is the North Rose and has a 26-foot diameter and contains 10,500+ pieces of glass in its construction. There are220+ individuals interred at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. including President Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller. On average 418,000 tourists will visit and worship at the National Cathedral.


The National Cathedral has hosted funeral and memorial services to almost all United States Presidents since 1893. On January 2, 2007, a funeral for President General R Ford was held at the Cathedral. The Cathedral’s Bourdon Bell’s tolled 38 times to honor the 38thth president.

In August of 2011

An earthquake hit Washington, D.C, this was known as the Virginia earthquake. Many tall structures like the Washington Monument suffered damage as did the National Cathedral. Work is still ongoing today in 2018 to repair the damage done by the earthquake. When construction began in 1907, there was no reinforced metal used. This meant that when the earthquake hit, the seismic vibrations caused stones to shift and separate, even caused the collapse of several arches, pillars and pinnacles. The worst part being that the National Cathedral did not hold earthquake insurance at the time. Initially $2 million dollars was raised just to stabilize the structure after a 3 month closing of the Cathedral. Phase 1 repairs occurred between 2011 and 2015 at a whopping $10.5 million dollar price tag. The second phase of reconstruction is said to be broken up into 9 sub-phases that will take 10-15 years to complete and is going to cost somewhere around $200 million dollars!

The Cathedral offers a lot of rich history

Far too much for one little article. If you are ever in Washington, D.C and looking for an awe inspiring sight to see, the Washington National Cathedral should definitely be on your list.