Monday, January 10, 2011

Gratias tibi ago, domine

One of the things that I am most excited about doing in DC is touring our nation's capital. Yes, it sounds totally nerdy, but there are so many great things to do and see here. I love US history. So, Alex and I plan to check out one new place each weekend until we've had our fill. As it's pretty freakin' cold out there, we are starting with inside attractions. 

First up is the Washington National Cathedral...

The Washington National Cathedral was founded in 1893. President Theodore Roosevelt laid the first foundation stone in 1907 and The Cathedral was completed in 1990 when the final stone was placed in the presence of President George Bush, the first one.

The Washington National Cathedral is the sixth largest cathedral in the world. The building is unique. The design for it was not copied from any other cathedral. It is built of Indiana limestone and shaped like a cross.

The Cathedral's main architectural style is Gothic, with pointed arches and flying buttresses (I just wanted to get that word in there. Love it.) There are flags from each of the 50 United States that hang above the main nave, and each week, the congregation prays for a different state. This Sunday people were praying for Florida. Hopefully they'll have a great orange crop this year!

There are 231 stained glass windows in the National Cathedral. They are pretty stinking awesome. There are three large rose widows at the main, east, and west naves that portray the tales of Creation, Last Judgement, and Glory of God.

The stained glass windows also tell of American history. The three windows pictured above, depict the three branches of government - Judicial, Legislative, and Executive.

The most famous stained glass window is the one celebrating man walking on the moon. In the center of the large red circle is a moon rock brought back by the Apollo 11 crew and presented to The Cathedral as a gift. 

The high altar is made from stones quarried at Solomon's Quarry near Jerusalem, reputedly where the stones for Solomon's Temple were quarried. In the floor directly in front of that altar are set ten stones from the Chapel of Moses on Mount Sinai, representing the Ten Commandments as a foundation for the Jerusalem Altar.

In addition to the many beautiful statues and stained glass windows, the National Cathedral also houses over 1400 pieces of handcrafted needle work. There is even one for every state. What's up Massachusetts!

On the lower level of The Cathedral is the Bethlehem Chapel. It was the first part of the church that was built and the first part of the church that was completed in 1912. Since the day it was completed, a service has been held in the chapel every day. If you were to get married at the National Cathedral, this is probably where your service would be held! 

My favorite part of The Cathedral is the Resurrection Chapel. It has a bunch of super cool mosaics portraying the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection. So it's a happy place, and it's peaceful because it's dark, cool, and total quiet is observed.

I'm a sucker for angels.

And anything shiny.

There are 18 people buried in the National Cathedral. The most notable is probably Woodrow Wilson, who is the only president. Though 15 presidential funerals have been held at the National Cathedral, Wilson was the only one that lived in DC at the time of his death.

On the seventh floor of The Cathedral is a theatre and observatory where you can see many points of DC interest. If you look real hard, I bet you can find the Washington Monument in this picture.

Some other cool things about the Washington National Cathedral are that it weighs150,000 tons, The Cathedral’s central tower is the only place in North America to house both peal and carillon bells, and oh yea, there is a sculpture of Darth Vader on top of the Cathedral’s west tower which of course we didn't find out about till after we got home!

Scarier than any gargoyle!