7 Interesting Facts About The Washington National Cathedral

Here are seven quick facts about the history of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

The Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, also called the Washington National Cathedral, in Washington, D.C, is an Episcopal cathedral. The Cathedral, which is of Neo-Gothic design, was chartered by the United States Congress in 1983 and was established on the highest point in D.C. in 1907. The Cathedral is an incredible sight, and is filled with such fascinating history and surprising details.

Here are seven interesting facts about the Washington National Cathedral you might not have known!

1. Builders and stonemasons began the construction of the Cathedral in 1907, completing it 83 years later in 1990.

Inside of the Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D..C
Inside of the Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C. Photo by Sharosh Rajasekher on Unsplash

Construction began September 29, 1907, with a ceremonial address by President Theodore Roosevelt and the laying of the cornerstone. The completion of the west towers in 1990, marked the end of 83 years of construction, as President George W. Bush wished over the Cathedral. (The $65 million cathedral was built and raised through private donations.)

2. Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached his final Sunday sermon at the Cathedral.

Martin Luther King Jr. Washington National Cathedral
FACEBOOK Washington National Cathedral

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached from the Cathedral’s Canterbury pulpit on March 31, 1968.  King was assassinated four days later in Memphis, Tennessee.

3. The Washington National Cathedral is the sixth-largest cathedral in the world.  

Courtyard at the Cathedral
Courtyard at the Cathedral. PHOTO LILY ADAMI

It is also the second-largest cathedral in the United States.

4. The High Altar is made from stone from Solomon’s quarry outside of Jerusalem.

Front view of the Washington National Cathedral
Front view of the Washington National Cathedral. PHOTO LILY ADAMI

Ten small stones from the Chapel of Moses on Mount Sinai, representing the 10 Commandments, are set into the floor in front of the altar. Beneath the cathedral’s oldest alter, in Bethlehem Chapel, is found the Cathedral’s foundation stone, which is brought from fields near Bethlehem.

5. The Cathedral’s ‘Space Window’ contains a 7.18 gram piece of moon rock from the Sea of Tranquility.

The General Declaration of the Moon rock and moon dust samples on July 24, 1969
The General Declaration of the Moon rock and moon dust samples on July 24, 1969. Instagram Photo

The moon rock was donated to the Cathedral by the crew of Apollo 11, which included Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin Aldrin in 1974. The window was dedicated on the fifth anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing on July 21, 1974.

6. The Cathedral is built in the shape of a cross, with its length extending about 530 feet (160 meters) and can seat over 4,000 people.

View of Washington National Cathedral from Wisconsin Ave
View of Washington National Cathedral from Wisconsin Ave. Photo by Shirley Donahue on Unsplash

The Cathedral’s design shows a mix of influences from the various Goth architectural styles of the Middle Ages. It is identifiable in its pointed arches, variety of vaulted-ceilings, flying buttresses, stained-glass windows, and carved decorations in stone.

7. State funerals for three United States Presidents were held at the Cathedral.

Washington National Cathedral
FACEBOOK Washington National Cathedral

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and Gerald Ford had their state funerals at the Cathedral, along with memorial services for seven other presidents.

Lily Adami

Content Editor Associate

Having a silly and hard-working personality, Lily loves getting to know people and is passionate about human rights around the world. She is enthusiastic about other cultures, history, and international affairs. Lily has a deep appreciation for traveling, her favorite places include: Amsterdam, Amalfi Coast, and South Africa.

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