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Visit ...Washington DC Basilica of National Shrine

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Day 04, April 17, 2008 of the Pilgrimage

We missed the chance to attend the Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI at the Stadium, instead we kept our plan to see the basilica at Washington DC. As we arrived at the location, the front terrace was anew, with fresh cut grass, so green than ever, and flowers with various perennial colors. The media were here probably for days and busy with their equipment and personnel. Satellites, mobiles, cables, newscasters were very visible more outside than inside where the order and reverence of the worship place were to be kept. We had enough time for more than an hour to see this magnificent basilica, no less of personal perspective from my previous visits.

Not too far away from here, of some short miles from this basilica there was a Franciscan Monastery of splendor in architecture and history, a must see place, shown in another gallery -Washington DC-, yet to be further developed from its 5% starting point.

____________________The BASILICA_______________________

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is a prominent Roman Catholic basilica located in Washington, D.C., honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary as Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, the Patroness of the United States.

It is the largest Catholic church in the United States and one of the 8th largest basilica in the world. Millions of pilgrims from around the country and the world visit the basilica each year. The land donated by The Catholic University of America. Nearby is the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center.
The brilliant mosaics, stained glass windows, and polished stone carvings throughout the Basilica, and in its more than 70 Chapels and Oratories, express the reality of God dwelling with us.

Dominating the North Apse of the Great Upper Church is the Byzantine style mosaic Christ in Majesty. It is one of the largest mosaic images of Jesus Christ in the world and contains more than 4000 shades and colors. Other mosaic images depict the Creation of the World, the Incarnation, Redemption, the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the Last Judgment.

The Basilica's Crypt Church is modeled after the Early Christian Catacombs. Its characteristic Roman arches are supported by 10-ton granite columns and form two Guastavino tile domes, which are complemented by the unique ceramic artistry of Mary Chase Stratton. While Guastavino (Catalan) vaulting and Mary Chase Stratton (Pewabic) ceramics are featured independently in structures throughout the United States, even in the U.S. Capitol, it is only at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception where these two artists and art forms found their unique artistic expression in concert with each other.

Construction of this church, notable for its Neo-Byzantine architecture, began in 1920 under Philadelphia contractor John McShain. The church opened in 1959 although it was not yet completed. It is designated as a National Historic Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Basilica is the Patronal Catholic Church of the United States, honoring Mary, Mother of God, under the title Immaculate Conception, not the cathedral church of the Archdiocese of Washington.
The Basilica is sometimes confused with the Washington National Cathedral, also a National Historic Landmark, which is an Episcopal church chartered by Congress as the National House of Prayer.
The Basilica does not have its own parish community, but it serves the adjacent University, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (located down the street), and hosts numerous Masses for organizations of the Church from across the United States. It houses dozens of chapels honoring Mary and reflecting the origins of the Catholic immigrants and religious orders whose generosity erected them. Its Greek-styled interior is crowned with numerous domes decorated in mosaics, similar to the Basilica of St. Mark in Venice, Italy, but much larger. The mosaics feature American renditions of traditional Catholic images.

The exterior of the Basilica is 459 ft. long, 240 ft. wide, and 237 ft. tall to the top of the cross on the dome. The diameter of the main (Trinity) dome of the Basilica is only 7 feet smaller than that of the dome of the United States Capitol. The exterior scheme of the basilica:
East Facade: Faith
West Facade: Charity
South Facade: Mary, the Mother of Christ, the Messiah and the Divine Redeemer
North Facade: Mary, the Immaculate Queen of the Universe by Ivan Mestrovic (1883-1962)

Among the many works of art, Pewabic Pottery was installed consisting of arches outlined with iridescent Pewabic tile, huge ceramic medallions set in the ceiling, and fourteen Stations of the Cross for the crypt.


In 1792, John Carroll, the bishop of Baltimore and America's first Roman Catholic bishop, consecrated the newly-created United States under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of The Immaculate Conception. In 1847, Pope Pius IX formalized Carroll's acclamation, proclaiming the Immaculate Conception as the Patroness of the United States.

Bishop Thomas Joseph Shahan took his appeal to Pope Pius X on August 15, 1913. Shahan received the pope's enthusiastic support and his personal contribution of $400. In January 1914, Shahan published the first issue of Salve Regina, a newsletter meant to stir enthusiasm for his project. He wrote that the shrine would be a "monument of love and gratitude, a great hymn in stone as perfect as the art of man can make it and as holy as the intentions of its builders could wish it to be. Shahan oversaw the construction of the shrine until his death on March 9, 1932. His body is the only one interred at the national shrine.

Bishop Shahan wanted his shrine to be bold and glorious and opted instead for a Byzantine-Romanesque design. Cardinal James Gibbons, archbishop of Baltimore, blessed the foundation stone on September 23, 1920. In 1929, the Great Depression halted the construction above the crypt level. The beginning of American involvement in World War II stalled plans even further.

After the war, in 1953, John Noll, archbishop ad personam of Fort Wayne and Patrick O'Boyle, archbishop of Washington, pledged to raise the funds necessary to complete the upper church of the national shrine. On November 20, 1959, thousands of Catholics gathered with their bishops for the dedication of the Great Upper Church.

The crypt has displayed the Papal Tiara of Pope Paul VI since 1968. In 1990, Pope John Paul II named the national shrine as the U.S.'s 36th minor basilica. In August 2006, work was completed on a mosaic covering the Redemption Dome in the Upper Church. This is the first new work to be done in many years and was part of the original architectural plans. Following its completion in the summer of 2007, the Incarnation Dome was blessed on November 17, 2007. Future plans include finishing the intended mosaic for the largest of the domes, the Trinity Dome. A small chapel on the crypt level was recently completed honoring Our Lady of La Vang (Vietnam).

In 2008, during his apostolic pilgrimage to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI bestowed the Golden Rose upon the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

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Visit ...Basilica Upper Church
:: Visit ...Basilica Upper Church ::
Visit ... Shrines of  Upper Basilica
:: Visit ... Shrines of Upper Basilica ::
Visit . . .  Basilica of The (Lower) Crypt Church
:: Visit . . . Basilica of The (Lower) Crypt Church ::
Visit ... Shrines of Lower Basilica
:: Visit ... Shrines of Lower Basilica ::
Visit   ....Blessed Mother of LaVang
:: Visit ....Blessed Mother of LaVang ::
Layout of Upper church
Layout of Upper church
Layout of Crypt (lower) church
Layout of Crypt (lower) church
Christ Our Hope greeting the Pope  IMG_4722_23 C.jpg
"Christ Our Hope" greeting the Pope IMG_4722_23 C.jpg
Aerial view of basilica
Aerial view of basilica
2008 Pope's visit Christ Our Hope
2008 Pope's visit "Christ Our Hope"
Pope celebrated Mass in Crypt Church
Pope celebrated Mass in Crypt Church
The Pope's leaving the Shrine
The Pope's leaving the Shrine