- Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
name = Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
nrhp_type = nhl
caption = The Basilica in 2006.
lat_degrees = 39
lat_minutes = 17
lat_seconds = 39.81
lat_direction = N
long_degrees = 76
long_minutes = 36
long_seconds = 58.18
long_direction = W
locmapin = Maryland
Benjamin H. Latrobe
November 11, 1971cite web|url=http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=876&ResourceType=Building
title=Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary |accessdate=2008-02-08|work=National Historic Landmark summary listing|publisher=National Park Service]
October 01, 1969cite web|url=http://www.nr.nps.gov/|title=National Register Information System|date=2007-01-23|work=National Register of Historic Places|publisher=National Park Service]
governing_body = Private (
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore)
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, also called Baltimore Basilica or Baltimore Cathedral, was the first
Roman Catholic cathedralbuilt in the United States, and was the first major religious building constructed in the nation after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. As a co-cathedral, it is one of the seats of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimorein Baltimore, Maryland. It is considered the masterpiece of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the "Father of American Architecture".
The Basilica was constructed (1806–1821) to a design of
Benjamin Henry Latrobe— America's first professionally trained architect [See Leland M. Roth, "Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History and Meaning". Boulder, Col.: Westview Press, 1993 .] and Thomas Jefferson's Architect of the U.S. Capitol; under the guidance of America's first Bishop, John Carroll. The Basilica was later consecrated on May 31, 1821 by the third Archbishop of Baltimore, Ambrose Maréchal. Pope Pius XIraised the Cathedral to the rank of a Minor Basilicain 1937. In 1969, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and further, in 1971, it was declared a National Historic Landmark. In 1993, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishopsdesignated the Basilica a National Shrine.
Many famous events have occurred within its walls, including the funeral Mass of
Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. Most of the first bishops of the American Church were consecrated here to fill the ever multiplying dioceses necessitated by the great waves of immigration and nation building that were emblematic of the 19th century US. Seven Provincial Councils and Three Plenary Councils were held here in the 19th century, assuring the Roman Catholic Churchwould remain of one mind and heart despite its ever-growing and widely scattered flock. These Councils set the course for the Catholic Church in America through the 19th century by establishing the Catholic School System; founding the Catholic University of North America; and calling for the evangelization of African and Native Americans. The Third Plenary Council, which was the largest meeting of Catholic Bishops held outside Romesince the Council of Trent, commissioned the famous Baltimore Catechism.
Until recent years, more priests were ordained here than in any other church in the United States.
The Basilica has welcomed millions of visitors in her 200 years, including
Pope John Paul IIin 1995, Blessed Mother Teresaof Calcutta in 1996, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinoplein 1997. Many holy individuals are associated with the Basilica, including Mother Mary Lange, Founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first order for Catholic nuns of African-American descent; Father Michael J. McGivney, Founder of the Knights of Columbus, who was ordained at the Basilica in 1877 by Archbishop James Gibbons; St. John Neumann, who is credited with founding America's Catholic School System; as well as visits from at least 20 other saints or potential saints.
The Cathedral is a monumental neoclassical-style building designed in conformity to a
Latin cross basilicaplan — a departure on Latrobe’s part from previous American church architecture, but in keeping with longstanding European traditions of cathedral design. The plan unites two distinct elements: a longitudinal axis and a domed space.
The main facade is a classical Greek portico with Ionic columns arranged in double
hexastylepattern, immediately behind which rise a pair of cylindrical towers. Architectural historian Henry-Russell Hitchcockbelieved that the onion-shaped domes atop the two towers were “not of Latrobe's design,” but now it is believed that they "were entirely the architect's own." The exterior walls are constructed of silver-gray gneissquarried near Ellicott City, Maryland.
Latrobe originally planned a masonry dome with a lantern on top, but his friend
Thomas Jeffersonsuggested a wooden double-shell dome [Citation
last = Ostroff
first = Tracy
title = Latrobe’s Baltimore Basilica to Celebrate 200th Birthday
journal = AIA Architect
date = April 14, 2006
url = http://www.aia.org/aiarchitect/thisweek06/0414/0414pw_baltbasilica.cfm.] (of a type pioneered by French master builder
Philibert Delorme) with 24 half-visible skylights. For the inner dome Latrobe created a solid, classically detailed masonry hemisphere. Grids of plaster rosettes adorn its cofferedceiling.
The interior is occupied by a massive dome at the crossing of the Latin cross plan, creating a centralizing effect which contrasts the exterior impression of a linear or oblong building. Surrounding the main dome is a sophisticated system of barrel vaults and shallow, saucer-like secondary domes.The light-filled interior designed by Latrobe was striking in contrast to the dark, cavernous recesses of traditional Gothic cathedrals.
21st Century restoration
A 32-month, $34 million restoration project was completed in 2006. The restoration included a total incorporation of modern systems throughout the building, while also restoring the interior to Latrobe's original design. Many "misguided accretions" were corrected.Citation
last = Mckee
first = Bradford
title = America's First Cathedral
journal = ARCHITECT Magazine
date = February 1, 2007
url = http://www.architectmagazine.com/industry-news.asp?sectionID=1006&articleID=433348.] 24 skylights in the main dome were re-opened, and the dark stained glass (which was installed in the 1940s) was replaced with clear windows. The original wall colors (pale yellow, blue and rose) were restored, as was the light-colored marble flooring which for decades had been a dark green color.
Additionally, the Basilica's crypt was made open to the public, as well as the expansive masonry undercroft (basement area) of the church. The undercroft, until now, was filled with sand from the original building of the cathedral, which prevented Carroll and Latrobe's vision of a Chapel in the undercroft. During the restoration, the tons of sand were removed, and the "Our Lady Seat of Wisdom" Chapel was finally realized.
Cardinal William Keeler, Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore, and one of the many champions of the restoration project, completed the restoration without dipping into the coffers of the Archdiocese, instead using private funds donated for the sole purpose of the restoration. It was closed to the public from November 2004 through November 2006, reopening in time for the Basilica's Bicentennial and the biannual meeting of the
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which was held in Baltimore to mark the occasion.
Eight of the twelve deceased Archbishops of Baltimore are laid to rest in the Basilica's historic crypt. The crypt is located beneath the main altar, next to the "Our Lady Seat of Wisdom" Chapel, and is accessible to the public. Resting in the crypt are:
* John Carroll, first Bishop of the United States. Served as Archbishop of Baltimore from November 6, 1789 until December 3, 1815.
Ambrose Maréchal, third Archbishop of Baltimore. Served as Archbishop of Baltimore from July 4, 1817 until January 29, 1828.
* James Whitfield, fourth Archbishop of Baltimore. Served as Archbishop of Baltimore from January 29, 1828 until October 19, 1834.
Samuel Eccleston, fifth Archbishop of Baltimore. Served as Archbishop of Baltimore from October 19, 1834 until April 22, 1851.
* Francis Patrick Kenrick, sixth Archbishop of Baltimore. Served as Archbishop of Baltimore from August 19, 1851 until July 8, 1863.
Martin John Spalding, seventh Archbishop of Baltimore. Served as Archbishop of Baltimore from May 6, 1864 until February 7, 1872.
James Cardinal Gibbons, eighth Archbishop of Baltimore. Served as Archbishop of Baltimore from October 3, 1877 until March 24, 1921.
Michael Joseph Curley, ninth Archbishop of Baltimore. Served as Archbishop of Baltimore from August 10, 1921 until May 16, 1947.
* cite book
last = Dorsey
first = J. and J.D. Dilts
title = A Guide to Baltimore Architecture
publisher = Tidewater Publishers
date = 1997
location = Centreville, MD
pages = 99-104
* [http://www.baltimorebasilica.org Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary]
* [http://baltoco.org/basilica Basilica page on the Baltimore Collective]
* [http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=876&ResourceType=Building National Historic Landmark Listing]
* [http://www.archbalt.org Archdiocese of Baltimore]
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