Updated July 8, 2020.
Let’s be serious… D.C. is not the first city I think of when I think of religious places. However, Washington, D.C., is home to some important religious sites that might interest you. Here is a quick run-down of the top religious sites in D.C.
Washington National Cathedral
Location: 3101 Wisconsin Ave., NW; Washington, D.C.
Hours: Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:00pm; Saturday 10:00am-4:00pm; Sunday 12:45pm-4:00pm
Admission: $12; Order Tickets Here (worship time and prayer free of charge)
Closest Metro: 1.1 miles from Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan, Red Line; Uber is a good option if you are not up for a mile walk
The Washington National Cathedral is meant to be a non-denominational church where everyone can come to pray and seek spiritual guidance. Washington, D.C.’s city planner, Pierre L’Enfant, intended to include a national church for the new nation’s capital city. It would take over 100 years for Congress to grant a charter for such a structure. It was completed in 1907, and the cornerstone laid that day included a piece from Bethlehem.
Those buried here include President Woodrow Wilson, Helen Keller, and Cordell Hull (Nobel Peace Prize winner and longest-serving Secretary of State from my hometown of Carthage, TN!). Be sure to take a good look at the stained glass, and look for the statue of Darth Vader on the Cathedral’s exterior.
National Basillica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Location: 400 Michigan Ave, NE; Washington, D.C.
Hours: Hours and Tour Times Here
Closest Metro: Brookland-CUA, Red Line; Parking onsite at the Basilica is Free)
This is a Catholic church, but all are welcome. The sanctuary on the main level is stunning and beautiful, but don’t miss the variety of shrines downstairs, too! You’ll surely marvel at the names on the walls and the shrines dedicated from different countries around the world. Interestingly, this church is not part of a parish like other Catholic churches are; it’s associated with Catholic University across the street.
Synagogue at 6th & I
Location: 600 I Street, NW; Washington, D.C.
Hours: Drop-in tours daily from 1:00-2:00pm, pending events
Admission: Tours FREE; Events vary
Closest Metro: Gallery Place/Chinatown, Red, Yellow, and Green Lines
This one has perhaps the most exciting and unexpected history. A Jewish community started growing along 7th Street NW in the 1850s, But the congregation eventually outgrew their building. Construction began at 6th & I in 1906, and it officially opened in January 1908. They met here until 1945 when the congregation outgrew their building again and moved farther up into Northwest D.C. The Turner Memorial A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopal) Church purchased the building in 1951 and renovated the building accordingly.
That congregation worshipped there until 2002, and when it was put up for sale, the realtor claimed it would be “suitable for a nightclub.” From a place of worship for 100 years to a nightclub! Thankfully, members of the D.C. Jewish community came together, and three Jewish developers purchased the building to preserve it. Restoring the building proved challenging, but it was rededicated as a synagogue in 2004. Beginning in 2005, the Synagogue also became an event venue!
Islamic Center of Washington
Location: 2551 Massachussetts Ave, NW
Hours: Call for details
Admission: Call for details
Closest Metro: Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan, Red Line; Uber from Metro is recommended
This is a beautiful building with lovely tile work and impressive elements that were gifts from countries around the world. Construction on the Islamic Center began in 1949, and it was dedicated in 1957. When it opened, it was the largest mosque in the Western Hemisphere.
Everyone should dress conservatively when entering the Islamic Center, but especially women. Covered shoulders and dress that falls below your knees is not enough. They have garments for you if you need them. See photo below:
More here: How to Respectfully Visit a Mosque
Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America
Location: 1400 Quincy Street, NE
Hours: Tours offered Monday-Saturday at 10:00am, 11:00am, 1:00pm, 2:00pm, and 3pm; Sunday at 1:00pm, 2:00pm, 3:00pm (reservations required two weeks in advance for groups of 7 or more)
Admission: No charge; donations accepted
Closest Metro: Brookland-CUA, Red Line
This Franciscan Monastery is an interesting one, especially their catacombs! There you will find the juxtaposition of life and death, as well as remains of saints and martyrs. The Monastery houses replicas of the shrines in the Holy Land and include beautiful gardens. You will also find the text of the Hail Mary in 150 languages!
St. John’s Church
Location: 1525 H Street, NW
Hours: Weekly tours offered after the 11:00am Sunday service; also by appointment
Admission: No charge; donations accepted
Closest Metro: McPherson Square, Blue, Orange, and Silver Lines
This church has sat across Lafayette Square from the White House since 1815, and every sitting U.S. President has worshipped here at least once during their terms. The bell in he tower was cast by none other than Joseph Revere, Paul Revere’s son, in Boston in 1822. Be sure to pay attention to the stained-glass windows from France, and sit in Pew 54–the President’s Pew!
I hope this blog post has inspired you to think about your own faith, and possibly to plan to visit one of these historic places of faith on your trip to Washington, D.C. Have you been to any of these places? Let me know in the comments section below!
Want more? Check out my dedicated Washington, D.C., Page!
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