Its official name, the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington, is a mouthful, so most Washingtonians simply call this neo-Gothic church The Washington National Cathedral. This return to the Gothic style was closely tied to religious and political movements of the 18th and 19th centuries. Pointed arches, gabled roofs, and dormer windows make this style easy to identify. St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and Il Duomo in Milan are other famous examples of Gothic Revival construction. The cathedral has several unique architectural features that you should check out on your visit. You won’t be able to miss the beautiful rose windows or the Space Window with a piece of moon rock incorporated into its design. But it's a little harder to find Darth Vader. Yes, you read that right—Darth Vader.
While the cathedral was under construction in the 1980s, a competition was held in which children could design gargoyles for the towers. The third-place winner’s submission was Darth Vader. The stone carving of the Sith Lord can be found on the dark side (naturally) of the cathedral high up on the northwest tower. Other gargoyles and grotesques can be seen all around the cathedral’s exterior along with carvings of saints, flying buttresses, and limestone pinnacles. A 2011 earthquake caused millions of dollars of damage to the cathedral. If you want to help fund the repairs, you can buy a LEGO brick to add to the replica in the gift shop.
Cover image Carol M. Highsmith (Public Domain)