Church of the Week: The National Cathedral, Washington, DC

On January 24, 1791, President George Washington commissioned Major Pierre L’Enfant to create a visionary plan for the nation’s capital. A part of L’Enfant's vision for the capital city was “a great church for national purposes.” But it took more than a century for plans for building Washington National Cathedral to gain momentum.

The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, also known as the Washington National Cathedral, is an Episcopal church and perhaps the world’s youngest Gothic church. Construction began September 29, 1907 and concluded September 29, 1990.

Washington National Cathedral is the sixth largest church in the world and second largest in the United States. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preached his last Sunday sermon at the Cathedral. This cathedral hosted the funerals for former presidents Eisenhower, Reagan and Ford, and more than 150 people are interred in the Cathedral, including President Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller.

The lovely Robin and I visited this church in the late 1970s. It can't possibly be fully enjoyed in a single day; it's too big, and there's so much to see. If you go, plan to go in the Spring or early Summer, the best time to enjoy the gardens. There are frequent concerts, and the church has an Evensong service at 5:30 p.m. most weekdays. And take the time to pray, read your Bible, and journal in one of the chapels. It's a great place to pray.

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