Known as “America’s Catholic Church,” the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is one of the largest churches in the world. You might recognize the Romanesque-Byzantine elements from other European buildings constructed during the 11th and 12th centuries when this architectural style was at the height of its popularity.
In England, this style is referred to as Norman architecture but the features are the same: thick stone walls, sturdy pillars, vaulted ceilings, and semi-circular arches. Some of the most well-known examples of this type of architecture include the Tower of London and Winchester Cathedral. Construction on the basilica began in 1920, but the Great Depression sidelined the process until after World War II when Catholic dioceses from all over the country were asked to make donations to be used for its completion. Once completed, the church towered over the city, reaching a height of 329 feet from the ground to the tip on the cross atop the bell tower. With a length of 459 feet and a width of 240 feet, the basilica’s total area is second only to that of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
The last architectural element to be put in place was the Trinity Dome with its elaborate mosaic masterfully crafted from 14 million pieces of Venetian glass in over 1,000 shades. The mosaic’s design features the Holy Trinity, the Virgin Mary, saints, archangels, and evangelists surrounded by the words of the Catholic statement of faith, the Nicene Creed.
Cover image by eVanNicole (CC BY-SA 4.0)