“America’s Catholic Church”: Inside the Beautiful National Shrine in Washington D.C.

Onasill ~ Bill Badzo, Flickr / Pete Speers, Flickr

Europe’s cathedrals might get most of the attention, but there are gems throughout the world.

One of the largest and most beautiful churches in the world is located in the U.S. capitol, and most Americans haven’t even heard of it. I’m talking about the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

[See also: Wow! Medieval Cathedrals Used to Be Full of Brilliant Colors]

Here’s a view of the outside:

Onasill ~ Bill Badzo / Flickr
Onasill ~ Bill Badzo / Flickr

Located on the campus of Catholic University of America (CUA), the idea of the shrine was proposed by Bishop Thomas Joseph Shahan, rector of CUA, in 1913. He first sought approval from Pope Pius X, who not only approved the project but donated $400 to the project.

Bp. Shahan convinced CUA to donate land for the church, and construction finally began in 1920. Construction slowed during the Great Depression and WWII, but the upper church was finally ready for dedication in 1959. Since then, new chapels and many works of art have been installed, with new additions as recent as 2011.

[See also: Behold, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, Hidden Gem of the Midwest]

As the largest Catholic Church in North America, the church can seat 3,500 worshippers, has over 70 chapels, and, according to its website, “houses the largest collection of contemporary ecclesiastical art on earth.”

Here’s what you see when you walk inside:

Lawrence OP / Flickr
Lawrence OP / Flickr

Stunning!

The basilica has been visited by Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis is scheduled to celebrate an outdoor mass right next to it for the canonization of Bl. Juniper Serra during his visit to the U.S. in September 2015.

That imposing image behind the altar, “Christ in Majesty,” may have caught your eye. Here’s a close-up:

Beechwood Photography / Flickr
Beechwood Photography / Flickr

Yeah, it’s kind of intense.

There is a beautiful crypt church under the main church:

Lawrence OP / Flickr
Lawrence OP / Flickr

You can explore a 360 degree tour of the inside of the basilica here.

[See also: 12 Amazing Virtual Tours of the World’s Most Spectacular Churches]

And here are some more pictures from throughout the church:

You can click on any image (above or below) to enlarge it. Enjoy!

Pete Speers / Flickr
Pete Speers / Flickr

[See also: 21 Absolutely Breathtaking Church Ceilings from Around the World]

Beechwood Photography / Flickr
Beechwood Photography / Flickr
Pete Speers / Flickr
Pete Speers / Flickr
Lawrence OP / Flickr
Lawrence OP / Flickr
Lawrence OP / Flickr
Lawrence OP / Flickr
Serge Melki / Flickr
Serge Melki / Flickr
Lawrence OP / Flickr
Lawrence OP / Flickr
Beechwood Photography / Flickr
Beechwood Photography / Flickr
Lawrence OP / Flickr
Lawrence OP / Flickr
Onasill ~ Bill Badzo / Flickr
Onasill ~ Bill Badzo / Flickr
Beechwood Photography / Flickr
Beechwood Photography / Flickr
Lawrence OP / Flickr
Lawrence OP / Flickr
Julie Lyn / Flickr
Julie Lyn / Flickr
Lawrence OP / Flickr
Lawrence OP / Flickr
Serge Melki / Flickr
Serge Melki / Flickr
Justin A. Wilcox / Flickr
Justin A. Wilcox / Flickr
THinLou / Flickr
THinLou / Flickr
Serge Melki / Flickr
Serge Melki / Flickr