by Howard Clemens
For Catholic student travel groups, Washington D.C. cathedrals offer some of the most historical and beautiful tourist sites in the nation—and, many say, the world. Washington’s cathedrals are architectural marvels, modeled after the great churches of Europe and comparable to them in grandeur and craftsmanship. Every year, the city’s cathedrals welcome thousands of tourists and student travel groups looking for an historical and spiritually enlightening experience. Below are some of the city’s most awe inspiring and famous buildings.
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, built in a magnificent Romanesque-Byzantine style, is one of the ten largest churches in the world, and the largest Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. and North America. Among many other features, it is famous for its brilliantly colored and detailed mosaics, as well as its 70+ oratories and chapels. It also boasts the largest collection of contemporary ecclesiastical art in the world. The Basilica has been visited by countless luminaries over the years, including Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. It is open all year round, and offers a wealth of traditional ceremonies for students to experience, including daily masses and ceremonies. The Shrine welcomes thousands of visitors per year, including many student travel groups, and it remains a favorite destination for students from all over the world. Teachers and students can get a preview of the remarkable sights that await them by visiting the Basilica’s official website and taking a virtual tour.
Washington National Cathedral
Washington National Cathedral has been host to a dazzling array of historical events, including Martin Luther King’s last sermon and Theodore Roosevelt’s 1907 speech, which dovetailed with its opening in the same year. Known as “a spiritual home for the nation,” the cathedral is notable for its exquisite design and interior. There is a sculpture of Darth Vader up in its northwest tower—the result of a children’s sculpture contest sponsored by National Geographic magazine in the Star Wars heyday of the 1980s. A blend of the ancient and the contemporary have made this beautiful structure a fun and popular destination for student travel groups for decades. The cathedral also offers a series of educational programs and lectures. Some of the sessions include meals and discussion.
The Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle
The Italian-Renaissance style Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle opened in 1840. Among other things, it is famous for being the site of John F. Kennedy’s funeral in 1963, and contains a plaque memorializing the late president. The cathedral itself is built in the form of a 155 cross, with a dome of 190 feet. The building seats one thousand people and is as renowned for the majesty of its holiday ceremonies as it is for being one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the world. With its large seating capacity, this cathedral is ideal for student travel groups looking to experience the beauty of traditional ceremonies, like the St. Anthony Novena, held on Tuesday evening, and the Miraculous Medal Novena, held on Wednesday evenings.
Student travel group leaders can plan a trip that includes a tour of the main cathedrals in Washington D.C. and include a list of other destinations, too. Select from the many museums, galleries, monument tours, and historical sites to add to an itinerary. Student trips focused on government may visit the White House and Capitol if they want to experience the full spectrum of the city’s variety. Washington D.C. is the birthplace of the nation. It is also a great place for students to get a feel for the elaborately built and famous cathedrals, built by master craftsman. A cathedral tour can certainly help students connect with religion and help them gain a keen sense of European influence and architecture.
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