Washington National Cathedral: Celebrating 100 Years
The official name of Washington National Cathedral is The Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. The second-largest cathedral in the United States and the sixth largest in the world, it is the seat of the Diocese of Washington, D.C., of the Episcopal Church in America. Regardless of its affiliation with the Episcopal faith, National Cathedral is known as the National Church for All People and is largely non-denominational.
In 1792, Pierre L'Enfant included a "great church for national purposes" in his "Plan of the Federal City." In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone of the cathedral. Eighty-three years later, in 1990, the cathedral was declared finished. The great organ was installed by Skinner & Co. and today features 10,650 pipes and 186 ranks, making it the 17th largest organ in the United States (32nd in the world.)
Gothic cathedrals feature grotesques and gargoyles, the former for deflecting rain water and the latter for carrying it away. One of the most famous and unusual grotesques is Darth Vadar. Located on the back of the North Tower (in the picture above, the tower on the left), he appears as a result of a contest the Cathedral and National Geographic held in the 1980s. Young people were asked to submit their ideas and Christopher Rader of Kearney, Nebraska, won the contest. You need binoculars or a telephoto lens to see the grotesques.
In 2004 and again in 2006, National Cathedral was the setting for the funerals of Presidents Reagan and Ford. The former was an elaborate affair while the latter was a bit humbler, but both were reflective of the lives of their honorees. President Woodrow Wilson is buried here. This was also the setting for the 2001 National Day of Prayer following the attacks on September 11.
Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 1/08