Shortly after arriving in Washington, D.C. last Wednesday, I took a bus up Massachusetts Avenue to the National Cathedral. Even having lived in the D.C. area for a decade in my youth, there is a list of prominent places I have never been. And the list grows longer each year. Heading into this trip, the National Cathedral was at the top of my list.
Though I tried to keep myself open to a contemplative experience, I couldn't escape the primary feeling of checking off a box on a "Been There, Done That" list. Still, the Cathedral offered a rejuvenating and generally inclusive atmosphere. Though a distinctly Christian edifice, much of the building's artwork and sculpture celebrates Americana. For instance, after being greeted at the main entrance by the Biblical figures of Peter, Adam and Paul, upon entering the spacious nave I found myself flanked by the politically sainted Presidents Lincoln and Washington.
Employing my typical self-guided tour approach, I attempted to stay between larger tour groups. This worked well in the main hall, but proved impractical in the comparatively cramped byways and chapels of the Crypt Level and 7th Floor Pilgrim Observatory Gallary (visible just above the center archway in the above photo). As on the National Mall the next day, I was reminded to my vexation of how bustling even the most sobering edifices of Washington, D.C. are during the day. It's all for the best I suppose. There was a time I was the light-minded kid on a field trip. Look how nostalgic I've turned out!
Seen in this shot, The Crossing area of the Cathedral is being prepared for the funeral of civil rights leader Dorothy Irene Height, which took place the following day. Further on, the High Altar at the east end of the Cathedral is visible.
With sincere respect for a departed civil rights legend, the next day's funeral resulted in no less than a half-dozen chances to witness motorcades up close. And in terms of musing on citizenship and government, I think witnessing a motorcade is thought-provoking beyond mere novelty. In this and other ways, Ms. Height's passing served to underscore the great historical, political, and cultural significance of Washington, D.C.
UPDATE: I neglected to mention that a key reason I went out of my way to visit the National Cathedral was a marvelous episode of The West Wing called "Two Cathedrals". The Season Two finale has several sequences taking place inside the cathedral. If you ever get a chance to watch this episode, amongst many other attributes, it does a marvelous job of showcasing the edifice.