Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Visit to the National Cathedral

Right before the July 4th holiday this year, my wife asked me if I wanted to go to the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. to take the Civil War tour that they were hosting to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the war.  Of course, I jumped at the invitation and the opportunity to learn about the role that the cathedral played in Civil War history.  Interestingly, the National Cathedral was not started until 1907, so I was curious as to how they were going to link the Civil War to this national shrine that wasn't even started until 42 years after the end of the conflict.

The National Cathedral runs a series of tours that you can sign up for and take during your visit to the nation's capital.  Located in the Northwest quadrant of Washington in the 3100 block of Wisconsin Avenue, the cathedral is a nice refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city.  There is a large parking deck that provides ample parking for the visitor as well as wonderful walking grounds to sample.  A visitor can spend an afternoon touring both the inside of the cathedral and the outside gardens.  The cathedral provides historical tours for a nominal fee and access to the tower is available via an elevator.  This perch provides a bird's eye view of the city and surrounding suburbs.

The Civil War tour is conducted by a volunteer who is well versed in both Civil War history as well as cathedral history.  She did an excellent job of connecting the cathedral to the events of the war by explaining the connection to Civil War veterans via various reunion ceremonies held there early in the 20th century.   The cathedral is resplendent with stained glass images of the history of the nation and reflects the various conflicts, wars, and struggles faced as the country matured.  Part of this struggle is the Civil War as indicated in the contrasting of the George Washington Bay and the Abraham Lincoln Bay.....

In the Washington Bay, at statute of the first president is on display, along with a beautiful stained glass piece created by the renowned artist Robert Pinart.  This piece depicts the birth of the nation with conflict in the middle, but growth and expansion, much like a plant.

Next to the window on the ground level is a statue of the first president.

On the opposite side of the cathedral front is the Lincoln Bay.  By contrast it shows the fires, pains and destruction of a nation in a second Pinart glass piece.  It too, is flanked by a statue of a great president.  The Lincoln Bay was built in the 1970s using monies donated from the estate of Robert Todd Lincoln.

There is another statute in the stairway leading to the lower level of the cathedral which depicts Lincoln at prayer...ostensibly over some hard thought issue of the day....

Lastly, the cathedral has another bay...the Lee-Jackson Bay....which has been a source of some controversy.  It was donated in the 1930s by the United Daughters of Confederacy and was meant as a healing gesture.  It honors all soldiers who fought for their respective countries and beliefs.  Below is an image of this bay....

I highly recommend taking this tour.  It is interesting, beautiful and surprising.  You will learn something!...

Jim D.

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