Saturday, May 3, 2008

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist:
Right worship in the Russian orthodox tradition in Washington, D.C.

The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (4001 17th Street NW) isn't actually on 16th Street proper, but I'm including it in The Churches of 16th Street series because you can glimpse its onion dome from 16th Street as you're headed northbound. By turning onto Shepherd Street NW, you can enjoy one of the most beautiful churches in the city! (Click on images to enlarge.)

Inlay in the archway over the entrance to the cathedral

Founded in 1949, the congregation met in the Resurrection Chapel at Washington National Cathedral. In 1956, the church acquired a piece of land at 17th and Shepherd Streets NW and, by 1958, had built and dedicated this cathedral. According to the church's website, "The building is executed in the 17th-century Muscovite-Yaroslav-style. Gilded onion domes, each crowned with a traditional Russian three-barred cross, a belfry, and icons of scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist above the three doors adorn the exterior. Murals and numerous centuries-old icons and an imposing four-tiered iconostasis make up the interior." I haven't been inside this church yet, but one of these days, I'm going in. You can see photos of the interior here.

You might be wondering, "Russian Orthodox? Is there really an audience for that in the D.C. area?" Apparently, yes. This congregation has more than 400 members. Over on Embassy Row is the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nicholas. St. John the Baptist belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and is part of a long-standing tradition of church growth outside Russia since 863 A.D./C.E. when two brothers, Cyrus and Methodius set out for Constantinople and began establishing churches in Bulgaria and Serbia.

Interestingly, St. John the Baptist also maintains a section in the city's oldest cemetery, Rock Creek Cemetery, which includes a parish chapel dedicated to the Montreal Iveron Myrrh-Streaming Icon of the Mother of God.

Beautiful onion dome against the spring sky

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 2/08


Lara said...

gorgeous architecture! thanks for visiting, and no, the 9 3/4 platform was not available for subway or I just din't drink the right potion :)!

kitty said...

wonderful detail and color!
I love buildings like this one. It seems like a world of its own.

iBlowfish said...

Beautiful photos and your post really informative. I won't pass this church anytime I am in DC. Well done.

D.C. Confidential said...

Lara: I love this little church and its architecture! Too bad about Platform 9 3/4!

Kitty: Thanks! Buildings like this are such a treat when you stumble on them, aren't they?

iBlowfish: Thank you. I learned a lot with this one and discovered a great treasure here in the city. The next time you're this way be sure to check it out.

Maya said...

I can't help but wish my grandfather were still alive and wanted to use a computer, because he would have loved your entries like this. He was an architect and one of his main jobs was rebuilding churches in Germany after WWII. He loved them! I can't tell you how many we got dragged to as little kids (at that time we weren't too interested).

Fénix - Bostonscapes said...

Oh so gorgeous... I'm so tired I can hardly type, but I really wanted to tell you how much I loved seeing these photos. Lovely architecture. :)

I'm going to bed. Stay groovy. :)

D.C. Confidential said...

Maya: I think that's the best compliment I've ever had on this blog. Thank you! Your grandfather sounds like he lived a full life and had some amazing experiences and stories.

I know what you mean about not appreciating our grandparents when we're younger. My maternal grandmother, who was an artist and an elegant woman who created beauty all around her in the desert southwest of Wyoming, died when I was 18. I didn't appreciate the loss of this lovely woman then, but I sorely miss her now. I think she would have loved her grandchildren as adults and we would have cherished her in ways we didn't as teenagers and little kids.

Fénix: I'm glad you stayed up long enough to comment! I always enjoy your comments and knowing you've stopped in. Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed these photos.

I think I'm going to call this church next week and see if I can arrange a tour of the interior. If it's this lovely on the outside, can you imagine what it's like on the inside?

Kaidydid said...

The blue sky reminds me of Moscow the day I went to Red Square and saw St. Basil's Cathedral. Even better was St. Petersburg, the sky was as blue as in this picture and the architecture seemed to be part of nature.

D.C. Confidential said...

Kaidydid: Wanna go with me on a tour of this church? I'm going to see if I can arrange a time to go see it. What would work best for you?

Dimitry said...

To you and your reader's:

St. John the Baptist is hosting it's annual Russian Bazaar October 4-5, 2008. The bazaar Web site hasn't been updated yet for this year's event, but check it out for last year's info and check back later for updates. Tours of the Church will be given during the bazaar. See you there!

Last years Web site:

D.C. Confidential said...

Dimitry: Thank you for this excellent information. I'm marking my calendar. By the way--check out this entry from May 28. Fr. Mickle gave me a tour of the sanctuary and it was quite stunning!

Jennifer said...

Hi D.C. Confidential! Thank you again for writing about our church. It is a D.C. treasure. We just wanted to remind you that St. John the Baptist's Annual Russian Bazaar is coming up again, October 3 & 4, 2009. We've recently updated our Web site: This year we're also on Facebook, Twitter ( and Flickr. Stop by and check it out. We're looking forward to seeing you there.