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gummo66 Jan 13th, 2005 09:34 AM

National Cathedral
After getting an unbelievable wealth of information on a recent neighborhood post (thanks again everyone!) I have one last question. Is the National Cathedral worth visiting if you are only in DC for 3 days? I'm not particularly religious, but I enjoyed Chartres, as well as the obligatory churches here in NYC. I suspect my wife and I will visit the Capitol and the Supreme Court (when we hit Eastern Market), and we'll see the Mall, the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Union Station, and the White House. Not sure if the trip to that Nat'l Cathedral is a commitment that will pull us away from more interesting things (payoff vs. time). Any help is appreciated. Thanks so much!

swalter518 Jan 13th, 2005 09:47 AM

I really enjoyed visiting the Nat. Cathedral and was shocked at how impressive it was-looks like it could have been lifted right out of Europe. I wouldn't skip any of the other sites you mentioned to go there-it took me 3 visits to get there but it is in a nice neighborhood and well worth the visit. (Actually, I was relatively unimpressed with the Supreme Court all things considered-I even had a personal guided tour as a member of the bar and it was very short and the court room is very small. I'd probably pick the Catherdral over a tour of the Supreme Ct.)

Tandoori_Girl Jan 13th, 2005 10:14 AM

The Washington Cathedral is a terrific building. Be sure to look for the stained glass window with the Space Shuttle on it. It is easily accessible and there is plenty of parking in this area. Access to the Capital is not so easy anymore since 9-11 so unless you've previously arranged that you'll not be able to get in.

gyppielou Jan 13th, 2005 12:11 PM

Go on a sunny day to fully experience all the fabulous stained glass! I too am not particularly religious but went twice on a 4 day trip.

4khansen Jan 13th, 2005 12:31 PM

I enjoyed our visit to the National Cathedral, the architecture and history behind it and extremely interesting. I was somewhat appalled when I returned home that a member of my church felt his visit to the cathedral brought on feelings that the site was anti-christian or something. He disliked the moon rock being placed in a stain-glass window and all sorts of "inappropriate Christian" artifacts throughout the place.

I think he has been Lutheran -- Missouri Synod a bit too long! Enjoy your visit.

themerle Jan 13th, 2005 01:05 PM

Everything about the Cathedral is interesting, inside and out. Take a tour or do the self-guided tour. The stain glass windows have stories to tell. There are wonderful pieces of needlework. Don't miss going up into the tower for the view. The architecural details of the Cathedral are amazing. It does seem that it should be in Europe!

beachbum Jan 13th, 2005 01:13 PM

Hold on there, 4khansen, that's my dad you're talking about!

I think the reason so many enjoy a visit is because the Cathedral is as much about nationalism as it is about adherence to its denominational affiliation's roots. It's hard to tell Whom/what is being "worshipped" there.

swalter518 Jan 13th, 2005 01:20 PM

A historical perspective explains the perceived lack of Christian references-it is the NATIONAL Cathedral, paid in part, if not wholly, by Federal dollars. The 1st Amendment's separation of church and state prevents it from being a denominational, let alone a Christian, place-it is a place to worship whomever you chose, if you so chose. It could not be anything more than that, if it was it would have been the 10 Commandments debate Xs 12!

vivi Jan 13th, 2005 01:28 PM

Omigosh yes, it is worth the trip. Its a tad off the beaten path but its a must-see, IMO. It is one of the most gorgeous churches I have ever seen. I was in DC in December and was lucky enough to attend The Messiah at the Nat'l Cathedral, I'll never forget that glorious evening

MNLinda Jan 13th, 2005 01:38 PM

I don't know when you are going, but not only is the National Cathedral beautiful, but the grounds are lovely too. My son sang in the St. Olaf choir when they toured DC and sang in the Cathedral. I also attended a service there the next Sunday. I encourage you to's a different "neighborhood" look at DC and a beautiful building.

gummo66 Jan 13th, 2005 01:39 PM

Thanks everyone--it's difficult to tell how far it is from it walkable from the metro? Or maybe even from Georgetown?

vivi Jan 13th, 2005 01:49 PM

I usually take the Metro to Dupont Circle and then an "N" bus up Massachusetts Ave. Get a bus transfer in the Metro station and the ride will only be 35 cents.

When I left the Messiah I walked from the Cathedral to Georgetown viaWisconsin Avenue. It was all downhill, I'd estimate it took 20-25 minutes. I dont think I would want to walk uphill from G'Town to the Cathedral. Also it is not an interesting walk, I like walking past the embassies on Massachusetts better but it is uphill from the Dupont Circle Metro station

CircleK Jan 13th, 2005 02:36 PM

You've already gotten lots of good information, but I couldn't resist responding because I am so partial to the Cathedral, having grown up across the street and spent 8 years going to school there. It is an absolutely wonderful place, and altough it's not too convenient to other sights, it is definitely worth a visit - and for me at least, it would be a more worthwhile visit than the Supreme Court or Union Station.

As others mentioned, if the weather is nice, the extensive grounds and gardens surrounding the building itself are beautiful, and the sun shining through the stained glass windows is awesome. Check their website ( and see if you might be able to catch some sort of musical performance while you're here - the acoustics are amazing, and the organ sounds incredible.

Starting at the cathedral and then walking downhill into G'town is a good idea, although I used to do the walk in the opposite direction all the time, and that's not bad either. It's about a 10-minute walk from the "top" of Georgetown, so if you're going to be strolling up Wisconsin Avenue checking out the shops anyway, it really doesn't tack much on to your journey to get to the Cathedral.

If you wanted to time your visit around brunch or lunch, there's a pretty decent restaurant called Cafe Deluxe a couple of blocks from the Cathedral, and an awesome pizza place called 2 Amys on Macomb St., which is about 3 or 4 blocks away.

FYI, Mount Saint Alban (which the Cathedral sits on) is the highest point in Washington, and the top of the bell tower is higher than even the Washington Monument - needless to say, it's a great view and worth going to the top for.

And as others mentioned, it is definitely a "national" cathedral and intended for all to be welcome - although it the Episcopal Church has the charter and basically runs the place.

CircleK Jan 13th, 2005 02:39 PM

Sorry, one more thing I meant to mention, since you listed the Capitol as one of your stops... there are public tours, but you'll save yourself some time waiting in line if you can arrange a congressional tour through your representative's office. Of course, you would have to be in town on a weekday for that, because congressional tours are led by the representative's staff, and they won't be around on weekends.

pollyvw Jan 13th, 2005 02:51 PM

Just 2 thoughts about your trip!

You are going to the Lincoln Memorial which is in walking proximity to Viet Nam War Memorial, Korean War Memorial and FDR Memorial. Yes! That will add a bit of walking but they are all incredible 'walk through' memorials. FDR is one of two places I take all my out of town guests knowing that they will most likely see the 'ordinary' sites on their own. I have been there in every season and can say it is strikingly beautiful and symbolic in all of them, even winter when there are icicyles in the waterfals.

The National Cathedral is the other place I take my guests, for several reasons most of which are mentioned above. But when I travel, I like to go to places I am likely to see again in the media. I enjoy that "I've BEEN there!" experience even if it's watching an automobile commercial as the car zooms through the Petrified Forrest. Well, National Cathedral is one that you will see again on TV, especially when the dignitaries gather to pay homage at funerals and memorials.

bardo1 Jan 13th, 2005 03:22 PM

I'll just add: You're doing a LOT, which is fine,but, take Metro to Tenletown stop and just get a cab (about $6). Afterword, hail a cab on Wisc. Ave. and do the reverse. Not that you couldn't walk or take a bus but I think your time is limited.

Also, if you at the White House and Lafayetts Sq. around breakfast or lunch time on a weekday, then hit the Breadline at 1750 Penn Ave (a block away). Great, great breakfast/lunch/pastries dirt cheap. The wines by the glass are also very cheap for such high quality - ask at the register. Closed evenings and weekends.

gummo66 Jan 13th, 2005 04:38 PM

Bardo and CircleK to the rescue again! Thanks so much (and thanks to everyone else of course)! I think I'm definitely going to do the cathedral, and it sounds like the Supreme Court might be less interesting than I'd thought. Unfortunately I won't be there early enough on Friday to hit Breadline (argh!)...

My wife is getting a bit frustrated because I'm trying to do everything in our limited 3-day visit...I'm at least as interested in digging into UST, Logan Circle, Eastern Market, Dupont Circle, and Adams Morgan as I am in seeing the monuments. But I'd like to do both, so I'm trying to (without destroying the spontaneous nature of traveling) figure out a basic plan.

I know Eastern Market/cafe will take up Sat morning and early PM, so maybe after that we'll hit the highlights of the monuments, and end at UST area. I guess Fri Night and Sunday will be Adams Morgan/Logan Circle/Dupont/Cathedral visits.

Does that sound reasonable?

repete Jan 13th, 2005 04:48 PM

Fuel up on the blueberry pancakes at the EM, it's a great way to start the day.

Cathedral is defintely worth it. Given your plans, I'd cab it.

Even though your schedule is ambitious, the Library of Congress is worth a peek and it's easy to get to from the market. It's also convenient to Capitol and Supreme Court. It's a wonderful building -- even if you just poke your head into the Great Hall of the Jefferson Building.

JBC411 Jan 13th, 2005 05:54 PM

It is incorrect to say, as swalter518 above does, that the Cathedral is a Federal facility supported wholly or largely by Federal funds. Circle K above partially corrected this statement, but I think the possibility of people being confused about the separation of church and state issue is important enough to correct it explicitly.

The Cathedral is not a government institution, receives no government funds, and is definitely a Christian, specifically Episcopal, church.

In fact, its official name is The Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and it is the headquarters church of the Episcopal Bishop of Washington. It is wholly supported by the Episcopal Archdiocese of Washington and other private donors.

It's to the Archdiocese's credit, I think (and I am not an Episcopalian) that they have made a conscious effort to make the Cathedral a gift to all the people of the Nation, and to make it possible for many Americans not of their denomination, or even of the Christian faith, to feel comfortable there. Others will feel, of course, as ak4hansen has described, that in doing so they have made it "not Christian enough."

But it is an definitely an Episcopal church, as attendance at the regular worship services conducted by its resident clergy would make clear, and it is no more restricted by legal considerations of separation of church and state than any other church. Unlike a courthouse or a public school or a city hall lawn, it is entirely church and not state.

And gummo66, I'd say it's definitely worth visiting even aside from the history of notable events that have taken place there, that it holds the tomb of President Woodrow Wilson (the only President buried in D.C.,) and it's highest-spot-in - D.C. view (it's the only thing in D.C. which can be seen from ten miles away in Tysons Corner, Virginia, near my home.) In addition to being spectacularly beautiful, it is the sixth largest cathedral in the world, and second in the U.S. to St. John the Divine in N.Y.C.

JBC411 Jan 13th, 2005 06:01 PM

OK, before any Episcopalian steps in to correct me, that's the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, not Archdiocese. I do know Episcopalians don't have Archbishops, just misspoke.
My apologies to the Bishop of Washington and the Diocese, who give the Nation such a great gift in maintaining this Cathedral.

swalter518 Jan 14th, 2005 06:56 AM

I didn't mean to imply that Federal funds not support the Cathedral but I thought I read that there was Federal funding for the building of the Cathedral-maybe I'm wrong. But given the number of government "events" held at the Cathedral, including Reagan's funeral (and I think a 9-11 memorial service), I would be a flash point for those 1st Amendment "watchdogs" if it was not subtle in its approach. None the less, I absolutely recommend a stop there.

bardo1 Jan 14th, 2005 06:58 AM

Thanks for taking the time to correct swalter. I was going to myself (I'm Episcopalian) but didn't have the time/energy earlier.

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