The National Cathedral

Just because of how things worked out, I experienced the big cities of Europe and the Middle east before I visited them in my own country.  I pretty much went straight from my little town in Utah to the Middle East - stopping on the East Coast only to switch planes and take a pre-Atlantic potty brake.  It has been really fascinating to encounter my own "National" things with something to compare them to - a perspective about how other countries perceive their national identity and how they translate that into their buildings or parks.

Jordan, for example, doesn't really embrace the idea of the "public park".   I recall a stroll through what was basically a manicured gravel pit with benches one Sunday after church.  Israel's national library has the goal of obtaining all things Jewish and/or Hebrew throughout time and the world.  If that doesn't speak to Israel's national Identity of sanctuary for and steward over all things Jewish, I don't what would.

The first time I went to the National Mall with Max and walked through its green grass I was struck with such pride in the way American architects and public officials have conceptualized our national spaces.  The mall is green, it's open, and people wander over it freely*.  All people have equal access to it, and it speaks to the nature found in the area - replete with forest service protected wildlife.  (Squirrels)  The buildings are beautiful, but not gaudy; grand but not unapproachable.

Anyway, Max and I have been able to see several public performances at the National Cathedral.  It's a stunning building that at once says "old world craftsmanship" and "new world values".  I don't know a lot about building construction, but evidently, it was built in such a way as to adhere to all of the traditional masonic rules and practices - real old school.  It is the 6th largest cathedral in the world and the 2nd largest in America.

The melding of old and new can be seen in the stained glass windows.  The nave is filled with beautiful, very colorful, stained glass windows  - like traditional late Gothic churches.  BUT instead of religious images alone, the stained glass windows also depict scenes from American life and history.  There are windows depicting farmers, the industrial revolution, and my favorite, a window depicting the space program with a REAL MOON ROCK at its center.  This website has some beautiful pictures of the windows.

The boss stones (decorative sculpture knobs at the intersection of ceiling ribs or walls) have traditional things like flowers, but there is also one of Alaskan Inuits with a dogsled and another of a fisherman.  Somewhere there is a gargoyle fashioned after Darth Vader, but I have yet to spot it.

The church is officially Episcopalian and funded entirely by donations - nobody need get their Church and State panties in a twist.  Below you'll notice the state flag of Arizona.  Inside the cathedral they fly the flag of every state in the union.  Each week they pray for one of the states at Sunday Services.  On the 51st week they pray for the district and on the 52nd they pray for the nation.  Isn't that a sweet thing?     

It's a lovely building.  

 *If you want to think about American public spaces and their relationship to American values check out Ken Burn's National Parks series.  I'm really not a sierra club kinda gal, but he touches on some fascinating aspects of our national character by exploring our public parks history.  Very dear.


  1. Ken Burns came to Viewmont last year to launch his series about the National Parks. I got to meet him and listen to him talk about why history is important. I may have cried. Beautiful pictures:)

  2. Oh! I remember seeing his name on the sign at CJH and thinking how awesome that was and how 13 year olds in Centerville probably didn't appreciate how awesome. I'm so glad you got to meet him!! What a thing.