The crowning jewel of America’s Catholic church

The crowning jewel of “America’s Catholic church”—that is, of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception—was finally unveiled and blessed yesterday.

The ceremony presided over by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington and the director of the Board of Trustees of the Shrine, symbolically marked the completion of the largest Catholic Church in America, construction of which begun in 1920.

Nearly a century in the making, the National Shrine was fittingly completed on the patronal feast of the American Catholic Church, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

The “Trinity Dome,” as it is called, is the central and largest dome of the basilica.

Now, only two years away from the centenary year commemorating the founding of this glorious basilica, pilgrims can behold with awe, 180 feet in the air, the amazing site of the completed mosaic on its interior.

Made in Italy, the mosaic consists of 14 million tesserae (pieces of Venetian glass) across 18,000 square feet, making it one of the largest mosaics of its kind in the world.

It depicts the Most Holy Trinity, the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Immaculate Conception, and a procession of saints associated with the United States and the National Shrine.

In 1789, the same year that George Washington was inaugurated the first president of the United States, the Catholic hierarchy was established in this country.

The first diocese in the American missionary territory was erected in Baltimore on November 6, 1789 with John Carroll as its first bishop.

Seeking aid from heaven to assist the fledgling mission territory entrusted to his pastoral care, Bishop Carroll consecrated the United States to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception, making her the patroness of the new country.

As years passed, the Catholics of America yearned for a visible sign of their nation’s consecration to Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception.

In 1846, an excerpt from a Massachusetts newspaper told of “a magnificent Catholic church [to] be built at Washington, DC after the manner of the great cathedrals of the Old World from subscriptions of every Catholic parish in America.”

From this initial desire, American Catholics worked to build a National Shrine through the late-19th, into the 20th and now the 21st century. Continue reading

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News category: Features.

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