Washington National Cathedral

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Washington National Cathedral

Construction of the sixth-largest cathedral in the world began in 1907, and what is officially known as the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul was finished and consecrated in 1990. Like its 14th-century Gothic counterparts, the stunning National Cathedral has a nave, flying buttresses, transepts, and vaults that were built stone by stone. The cathedral is Episcopalian, but it's the site of frequent ecumenical and interfaith services. State funerals for presidents Eisenhower, Reagan, and Ford were held here, and the tomb of Woodrow Wilson, the only president buried in Washington, is on the nave's south side. The expansive view of the city from the Pilgrim Observation Gallery is exceptional. You can even enjoy a traditional English afternoon tea in the gallery most Tuesdays and Wednesdays following a one-hour cathedral tour.

The compact, English-style Bishop's Garden provides a counterpoint to the cathedral towers with boxwoods, ivy, tea roses, yew trees, and an assortment of arches, bas-reliefs, and stonework from European ruins.

The cathedral's Flower Mart is held annually on the first Friday and Saturday in May and is one of Washington's premiere festivals. Each year, one Washington embassy is honored and festivalgoers are treated to the culture, traditions, food, and art of the selected country, though lobster rolls are traditionally on offer on the Friday evening of the festival. This is one of only two times during the year that you can climb the 333 steps to the cathedral's tower.

In 2011, the cathedral sustained earthquake damage (the same quake caused extensive damage to the Washington Monument). Using limestone from the quarry that supplied material for the building of the cathedral, stone carvers continue to restore damaged carvings and repairs are still being made to the interior ceiling and the flying buttresses on the cathedral's east side. Restoration work is expected to continue through 2016, but the cathedral remains open during the process.


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