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.
Here’s a view of the outside:
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.
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:
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:
Yeah, it’s kind of intense.
There is a beautiful crypt church under the main church:
You can explore a 360 degree tour of the inside of the basilica here.
And here are some more pictures from throughout the church:
You can click on any image (above or below) to enlarge it. Enjoy!