North America’s largest Catholic church finished: 100 years later

North America’s largest Catholic church is now complete.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC took 100 years from the first turn of the spade until the dome was complete.

After the Crypt Church was finished in 1931, construction on the Upper Church began. This halted during the Great Depression and World War II.

Work resumed in 1945 and the Church’s structure was signed off in 1959.

The “jewel in the crown”, the 24-ton Venetian glass “Trinity Dome”, was officially finished last Friday to coincide with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

The dome is one of the largest mosaic installations of its kind in the world and is made from over 14 million pieces of glass.

It depicts the Holy Trinity, the Virgin Mary, a procession of saints and angels, the four evangelists and the Nicene Creed.

The dome also includes stained-glass windows dedicated to the many donors from all over the country who helped contribute to its construction.

Besides money, some donated jewelery and others gave precious stones.

Numerous clergy, including five cardinals, 23 bishops and around 90 priests joined four thousand people to witness the dome’s dedication.

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl celebrated the two-hour dedication Mass.

The basilica is a “modern-day masterpiece,” Wuerl told the congregation.

Faith was the reason so many people, for so many years, made sacrifices to finish the church, he explained.

“This magnificent tribute in stone, glass, marble mosaic to Mary, Mother of Jesus, Mother of God and our Mother, invites all of us to recognize not only the special role of Mary in our life but the unique glory that is hers in her Immaculate Conception,” Wuerl said in his homily.

He pointed to the new dome’s many pieces coming together as one piece of art, drawing upon its reflection of the unity within the universal Church as well the many different cultures that have come together in the United States.

“Just as there are chapels throughout this Basilica reflecting national heritages, ethnic backgrounds, all proclaiming in unison ‘Hail Mary,’ so, too, do we look across this great Church of God and see out of so many one great faith family,” he said.


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