If you’re looking for a slightly off-the-beaten-track destination during your stay in D.C., look no further than the Washington National Cathedral. Located just northwest of the Washington Marriott Wardman Park, the National Cathedral (officially called the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington, by the way) is an easy 1.5-mile walk.
Construction of the Washington National Cathedral began in 1907, when the foundation stone was laid in the presence of President Theodore Roosevelt. It would take 83 years to complete the massive structure, and the final stone was placed in the presence of President George H. W. Bush in 1990. The architecture of the Cathedral is Neo-Gothic design closely modeled on English Gothic style of the late fourteenth century. Features of the Neo-Gothic design style include pointed arches, flying buttresses, vaulted ceilings, stained-glass windows, and carved stone decorations. But it’s stunning design is not the only thing that makes a visit worth your while.
The exterior of the building is covered in grotesques and gargoyles which historically were meant to ward off evil spirits. The figures covering the Washington National Cathedral are, shall we say, a tad more whimsical. There were two public competitions to provide designs for grotesques for the National Cathedral, the second of which produced the famous Darth Vader (yes, you read that correctly) on the northwest tower. Since the Darth Vader grotesque is difficult to spot from the street, a guided tour is recommended if you want to see this Star Wars tribute up close.
Of course, the Washington National Cathedral is a working church and was designated by congress as the “National House of Prayer” during World War II. Today, the Cathedral hosts major religious and secular events which draw people in from around the country and around the world.
For more information about the Washington National Cathedral, including tour information, opening hours, and worship services, click here.