A day out


Stain glass window of Stonewall Jackson in the...

Stain glass window of Stonewall Jackson in the Washington National Cathedral (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David and I experienced no hitches in the taxi rides to and from the cathedral a mere 15 minutes away in nonrush hour traffic.

We rode with a driver who recited his poem on the ‘uprising of hope’ as we approached the cathedral.  I asked him if he belonged to a church and he said ‘no’ he was ‘inspired by the Holy Spirit and his taxi was his church.

 The cathedral sits on 59 acres on Saint Alban’s Mount, the highest point of land in the city which La Enfant designated as the site for a national church when he designed the city of Washington. The building was delayed as the framers wanted to keep the church and state at arm’s length, but after the Civil War the idea of a national church was revisited. (The war is reflected in the church windows which show Lee and Grant, Jackson (above) and others.)

The good news is that David and I proved to ourselves we could still walk for 1.5 hours before collapsing. Maybe I will be able to lure David to Italy yet?

As a life-time Episcopalian, David enjoyed the National Cathedral more than I did. That was all I wanted. Truth be told, I like the Basilica on the other side of town better (Shrine of the Immaculate Conception).

I find construction of a Gothic Cathedral with its Flemish tapestries and Cathedra composed of bits of Glastonbury Abby in England, in Washington DC odd.  Especially as the architecture is Roman Catholic and it is a national cathedral.

In the nineteenth century, following the Civil War when the idea for the national church was finally formally developed, the creators saw the US as more English and Protestant than not. I suspect they were copying Saint Paul’s in London. I would have preferred something more inclusive of our multiethnic heritage, hence my love of the Basilica which is oriental in design. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love all churches, temples, cathedrals and have visited almost every kind of religious example, except Islāmic. My favorite architecture is nondenominational and modern, à la Frank Lloyd Wright, therefore the Unitarian structure up the road is more appealing to me and ecumenical too as it hosts not only the religions of the Book, but everything else from Buddhist to Wicca.

Today the National Cathedral is a bit secular. The two most prominent statues in the place are Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. So many people have touched the Lincoln statue (for luck?) his hand looks shiny new.

Other figures familiar to Christians are located in the Mary Chapel and or above the high altar.

cathedral2013 022 cathedral2013 018

Meanwhile the stained glass windows reflect many events in US history, including the Civil War (all wars) and Apollo 11.   

Last night, we  both slept soundly. But not before we had tea and an exciting ride home though Georgetown. We arrived safely and thanked Cathy for walking Johnny (Clare hid upstairs under David’s bed).  

7 thoughts on “A day out

  1. This post was fascinating! We also have visited many religious sites, but nothing at all compared to your experiences. As a Unitarian-Universalist, I especially related to your observations about the nearby UU church and Frank Lloyd Wright (who was a Unitarian). One of his architectural gems is the Unitarian church in Madison, Wisconsin. It was just a couple of blocks from where I worked for four years. The exterior was impressive. Unfortunately, I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to enter and see the interior design. I never would have guessed that more than 40 years later I would join a UU congregation. One of these days I’ll get back to Madison and make a point of thoroughly checking out one of Lloyd’s best works.


  2. You made me think of the many cathedrals I’ve visited in my visits to Europe. I was always strcuck by the Gothic nature and the gargoyles that several of them displayed.


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