Historic Church Tour #4

February 28, 2007

Washington, DC


St. Patrick's in the City was established in 1794, and was the 'first church to be erected in the ''Federal City'' outside the limits of ''George Towne'',' six years before the government moved to the Capital in 1800.


The cornerstone of the present church was laid on November 3, 1872 and dedicated on December 28, 1884.  The first Mass had been celebrated on November 2, 1884.  The exterior of the Victorian Gothic Revival building is of blue-grey gneiss blocks trimmed with buff colored sandstone with polished rose and grey granite.

The statue of St. Patrick shows him as a bishop, wearing the miter and holding the crosier, or shepherd's staff.  Also depicted in his left hand is a shamrock which Patrick used as a symbol of the Trinity of God to the Irish.  The sea shell in his right hand symbolizes the baptism of thousands of Irish converts during St. Patrick's 30 years of missionary work.

The four statues of genuflecting angels holding a large shell were selected and commissioned by sixth paster, Msgr. William T. Russell for holy water fonts in 1909 while on a trip to Europe. 



Embedded in the vestibule floor is a shamrock of Vermont green marble.  It was originally placed in the sanctuary in 1914, but moved during renovations in 1994.  Irish tradition says St. Patrick used the shamrock with its three leaves to symbolize the Holy Trinity, one God in three Divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We gather around Msgr. Farina at the rear of St. Patrick's and listen to the history of the church.


Looking up the left side aisle from the statue of The Pieta, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to St. Thomas More, the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, to the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Looking up the right side aisle from the statue of St. Joseph, to St. Patrick, to St. Anthony of Padua to the Blessed Sacrament altar.


The tabernacle on the Blessed Sacrament altar was originally placed on the high altar in the sanctuary in 1896.  It remained there until moved to the side altar during renovations in 1994.

The Pieta was designed and executed in 1912 by Baltimorean Edward Berge. 


The altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary, installed in 1890, was made by Mullen and Sons of Baltimore of Vermont marble embellished by Mexican marble.  Imprinted on the front of the altar is 'AM', for 'Auspice Mariae' for 'under the protection of Mary'. The statue of the Blessed Mother was made in France and dates from 1916.

The thirteen-foot high Celtic crucifix was scupted by Washingtonian Leo Irerra and shows both the crucified and risen Christ.  It was dedicated in 1994 during the 200th anniversary of the founding of the parish.

Side view of the sanctuary crucifix showing the crucified Christ as a negative imprint of the risen Christ on a Celtic cross.


The main altar dates from 1896 and measures almost sixteen feet in length.


Sixteen niches above and surrounding the sanctury crucifix form 'The Gallery of Saints and Blesseds of the Americas', done in the icon tradition by Tatiana McKinney.  From left to right they are 1) Bl. Miguel Pro, 2) Bl. Andr Bessette, 3) St. Juan Diego, 4) Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha, 5) St. Martin de Porres, 6) St. Isaac Jogues, 7) St. Peter Claver.....

...8) St. Rose of Lima, 9) St. Frances Xavier Cabrini...

...10) St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, 11) St. John Neumann, 12) St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, 13) Bl. Marie Rose Durocher, 14) Bl. Junipero Serra, 15) St. Katharine Drexel, and 16) Bl. Damien de Veuster.


One of twelve original consecration crosses on the wall of the sanctuary leading to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.  Eight others are positioned between the Stations of the Cross on the side walls.  The three missing crosses may have been removed during the renovations of 1994.

Looking down the main aisle to the back of the church, 169 feet from the center entrance to the sanctuary apse and 84 feet wide.  The Great Rose Window by John Hogan of Dublin above the choir loft and organ measures 15 feet in diameter with 225 square feet of stained glass.  The window was installed in 1964 shortly after the November 22, 1963, assassination President John F. Kennedy and is dedicated to the first Irish-Catholic United States president.

St. Patrick's installed the very first organ in any church in the Federal City in 1815.  The current and fifth organ was dedicated on September 11, 1994 and contains the wooden casework and some pipes from the 1895 organ.


At the time it was completed in 1908, Union Station was the largest train station in the world and covered more ground than any other building in the United States.

Architect Daniel Burnham designed the building to be monumental in every respect and to serve as a gateway for the capital city. 


The floor of the concourse is made with Greek and Italian marble and the columns are glazed terracotta.

Enjoying lunch at 'America', one of many eateries in Union Station.


And there was even time for a little shopping.  Notice both Fathers have a shopping bag.....

One of the first sights when you walk out the main doors of Union Station is the United States Capitol, one of the most important and well known buildings in our country.


A monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus, ''whose high faith and indomitable courage gave to mankind a new world'', stands in front of Union Station.

A replica of the Liberty Bell in front of Union Station.


St. Aloysius Church was founded in 1859 by the Jesuit order.

Jesuit Father Benedict Sestini was the architect of St. Aloysius Church, and it is the oldest church ediface within the limits of the original Federal City.


The church is named for St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a young Italian Jesuit who gave his life at the age of 23 caring for victims of the plague in Rome in 1581.

Father Thomas Clifford, S.J., current pastor, shares the history of St. Aloysius with us.


The painting above the main altar showing a young Aloysius Gonzaga receiving his first communion from the hands of Cardinal, now St., Charles Borromeo, was the work of Constatine Brumidi, who also painted the frescoes on the inside of the Capitol dome.  Also depicted in the painting are Fr. Sestini, who was a personal friend of Brumidi, and then paster Fr. Bernadine Wiget as kneeling to the right.  The model for Aloysius' mother was parishioner Adele Cutts Douglas, wife of Stephen Douglas, presidental candidate who was defeated by Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

The main altar in the sanctuary of St. Aloysius church.


The front altar was constructed using the center aisle end posts of the original communion rails.

The nave of St. Aloysius Church. 


In order to be able to support the ceiling and roof of the church without the use of any interior support columns, hammered tin was used to lessen the weight.

The middle level balcony as seen from above from the choir loft at the rear of the church.


Looking down the center of the spiral staircase used to reach the middle level balcony and the choir loft.

The rear balconies as seen from the center of the church.


Msgr. Brady reads the gospel.

We listen to Fr. Daly's homily.


"Wash away my sins and cleanse me from my iniquity.''

''Let Your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.''



''Through Him, with Him, and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.''

The Capitol Building of the United States of America, designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe who also designed the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore, Maryland, which was visited on Bus Trip #3.


The Washington Monument was completed on December 6, 1884 in honor of George Washington, first president of the United States.  It measures 555 feet high, and could fit within Union Station's 750 feet long original open concourse if laid on its side.

St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Upper Marlboro was established in 1824.  The parish of St. Mary's has included the mission parishes of Holy Rosary in Rosaryville, Mt. Calvary in Forestville, St. Anthony's in North Beach, and St. Mary's in Piscataway.

Statue of St. Michael the Archangel in the rear of St. Mary's church.
(Few pictures were available from St. Mary's due to Adoration at the time of our visit.)

  Photography and Captions by Sharon Seckens

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