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|Basilica of the National Shrine of the
the largest Catholic church in North America
On February 7, 1847, Pope Pius IX named the Blessed Virgin Mary patroness of the United States under her title of The Immaculate Conception.
In 1910, Bishop Thomas Joseph Shahan, Rector of the Catholic University of America, proposed the construction of a national shrine to commemorate the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Pope Pius X approved Shahan's proposal on August 15, 1913, and presented Shahan with a $500 personal donation for the project. The Board of Trustees of The Catholic University of America donated land at the southwest corner of the campus for the Shrine, and contributions came in from Catholic dioceses throughout the country.
A Byzantine Revival-Romanesque Revival design was chosen in 1919, and Cardinal James Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore, blessed the foundation stone on September 23, 1920. The Great Depression of 1929 halted the construction above the crypt level, and American entry into World War II stalled it even more. In 1953, John Noll, Archbishop of Fort Wayne, and Patrick O'Boyle, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., pledged to raise the funds necessary to complete the upper church of the National Shrine. TheGreat Upper Church was dedicated on November 20, 1959.
Located at 400 Michigan Avenue NE in Washington, D.C., the Basilica houses 70 chapels honoring Mary and reflecting the origins of the Catholic immigrants and religious orders whose generosity erected them. The exterior of the Basilica is 500 feet long, 240 feet wide, and 237 feet tall to the top of the cross on the dome. Bishop Thomas Shahan, who oversaw the construction of The Shrine until his death on March 9, 1932, is interred in the crypt.
The Basilica's official website is www.nationalshrine.com.
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This page was last updated on November 20, 2017.