of the National Shrine of the Immaculate
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
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
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 http://www.nationalshrine.com.
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