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Backstories About the Images - D.C. Heights

rose window

The behind the scenes story this week is tied to another lovely stained glass window. You'll find this rose window high above Washington, D.C. at the Washington National Cathedral. If you have never visited this beautiful building, I highly recommend it. For today's back story, I thought I'd share some interesting facts about this structure.

To begin with, though it's commonly known as the Washington Cathedral, the official name of this house of worship is the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. It's the sixth largest cathedral in the world, and the second largest in the United States. (The largest? The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine on New York City.)

It took 83 years - to the day - to complete the structure. Theodore Roosevelt was the president when construction began; George H.W. Bush was in office when it was finally finished. It cost $65 million to build but was privately funded.

The building is once again under construction, in a manner of speaking. You may remember the earthquake which shook our nation's capital in 2011 (you'll recall the scaffolding which surrounded the Washington Monument for a long period of time during its repair and restoration.) The Cathedral also sustained significant damage from the temblor, to the tune of more than $34 million.

There is much restoration work left to be done.

About the spectacular stained glass windows: there are 215 in all. They are amazing works of art, depicting a variety of stories and themes. One of them, commonly known as the "Space Window," features stars and planets and even contains a small piece of moon rock, a gift from the Apollo 11 astronauts to the Cathedral. You can easily spend an afternoon simply admiring all the windows.

Everything about this place is BIG. The pipe organ has more than 10,500 pipes. (If you're lucky enough to be there when the organist is rehearsing, as I was on my first visit, it's a special treat indeed.) The largest window measures 26 feet in diameter. The average weight of one of the stones from which the building is constructed is 300 pounds. There are nearly 300 angels adorning the top of the two west towers.

You'll find many symbols and historical references both inside and on the exterior, such as gargoyles representing various states, statues of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, a carving of Albert Schweitzer, and so on.

This cathedral is something to behold.

Oh, and did you know more than 200 people are buried inside - including Helen Keller?

The rose window depicted above is featured in both an Ordination Memento and an Installation Memento.

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