About Quizzes

National Shrine

Consecrated on November 20, 1959, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, commonly called the "National Shrine," is located in northeast Washington, D.C. It is one of the 10 largest churches in the world. The church was built to honor the spiritual Patroness of the United States. Bishop Thomas J. Shahan, the fourth rector of the Catholic University of America, was the founder of the National Shrine. He proposed to build a national shrine in Washington to honor Mary in the early 1900s. In 1913, Pope Pius X supported Bishop Shahan and offered a personal contribution of $400. Philadelphia priest, Father Bernard McKenna, was the first director (1915) of the National Shrine. On September 23, 1920, the Archbishop of Baltimore, James Cardinal Gibbons, laid the foundation stone. The Great Depression and World War II temporarily blocked the construction of the shrine. The project was restarted after the war by Washington's Archbishop Patrick O'Boyle and Father John Noll, the Archbishop of Fort Wayne, Indiana. All the bishops in the U.S. pledged their support, in 1953, for the completion of the Great Upper Church. The shrine was dedicated after six years. The National Shrine covers an area of 77,500 square feet and has a total length of 459 feet. The height from the floor to the apex of the central dome is 10 stories. The Knights' Tower, donated by the Knights of Columbus, is 329 feet high. The church can accommodate more than 6,000 worshipers. There are many archives in the basilica, including historical records of the building, records of iconography and furnishings, architectural and construction records, information about shrine artists, photographs, scrapbooks and news clippings, service registers, and worship leaflets.