AAA/Greg Weekes
AAA/Greg Weekes
AAA Editor Notes
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is at 400 Michigan Ave. N.E. (at 4th St. N.E.). The largest Catholic church in the U.S., it is not only a place of pilgrimage and prayer but is known for its outstanding collection of sacred art. The foundation stone was laid Sept. 20, 1920; the basilica was dedicated as a national shrine in 1959 and serves the adjacent Catholic University community and beyond.

The Byzantine-Romanesque architectural style is notable; the building was constructed in the style of medieval churches, utilizing masonry walls and columns in place of a steel skeleton or framework. The breathtaking interior is crowned with numerous domes adorned with mosaics.

The shrine houses a large and notable collection of artworks. In addition to Vatican Studio mosaic reproductions of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo's “Immaculate Conception” and Titian's “Assumption,” there is a large mosaic of “Christ in Majesty” by John de Rosen. Memorial tablets cover the walls and columns of Memorial Hall, where the coronation tiara of Pope Paul VI is displayed.

Some 80 chapels, decorated with mosaics, sacred images and ceramic medallions set in the ceiling, flank the upper church and crypt levels. On the grounds is Mary's Garden, where a stone sculpture of Mother Mary, cradling an infant, stands at the edge of a small fountain. This shaded spot is a quiet oasis for personal reflection.

Note: The basilica is located five blocks from the Brookland-CUA Metro station (at least a 15-minute walk); plenty of visitor parking is onsite.

Guided tours are available.

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