Saturday, June 28: This year, I joined the Vienna Photographic Society, which has given a boost of inspiration to me and my photography. In early June, professional photographer Brandon Kopp gave a presentation to the group about great spots for photography in the D.C. area. The first place he mentioned, among many, was the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. I took note of all his ideas, all the while brewing plans to visit his recommended sites.
This morning, I venture into the city to check out the Basilica.
Brandon mentioned that the Basilica is the fourth largest cathedral in America. What he loved about it were the diverse side chapels, each with their own distinct flavor.
I’m first smitten by the Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel. I love the starry skies, the lettering of the Hail Mary prayer and the gold arches.
According to the Basilica’s brochure, in 1847, at the petition of the bishops of the United States, Pope Pius IX named the Blessed Virgin Mary patroness of the United States under her title of the Immaculate Conception.
In 1910, Bishop Thomas J. Shahan, rector of the Catholic University of America, suggested building a national shrine to honor Mary. The foundation stone was laid on September 23, 1920. The Crypt Church was completed in 1926 and the Crypt level in 1931.
The death of Bishop Shahan in 1932 and the Great Depression brought construction to a halt. In 1953-54, Catholics throughout the U.S. contributed enthusiastically to a fund-raising effort to complete the Shrine, which was finally dedicated in 1959. Pope John Paul II elevated the National Shrine to the rank of a minor basilica in 1990.
The interior embellishments and the addition of more than 70 chapels and oratories, bring the interior of the shrine close to completion.
After wandering around for a good long time, I walk outside to visit Mary’s Garden and to see the back view of the Basilica.
I’m in awe of this amazing Cathedral. I’m also once again amazed that this Cathedral has been in my neighborhood since I moved to northern Virginia in 1988, and I’ve never seen it before now!
Since I am in the city, I decide to head next to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, which is in its final days of existence as we know it…. At least I’ve been here before!