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A Guide to the Stained Glass of the Basilica

Did you know that the Basilica contains stained glass windows with nine different national monuments, including the White House, the Capitol, and the Lincoln Memorial? Because the Basilica is designed in the Byzantine-Romanesque style, the mosaic is the primary medium utilized in its art. However, Mary’s Shrine is also filled with countless stained-glass depictions of biblical truths and characters, and symbols of Marian protection. Since the early stages of its inception, the Basilica included stained glass elements in its art and architecture and continued to add more throughout the years. Today, we invite you to learn more about the stained glass and ten places you can find it in the Basilica.

Jesus Teaching by the Sea

1. Lower Sacristy – Jesus Teaching by the Sea

The Lower Sacristy features a brilliant stained glass depiction of Mark 4:1, where Jesus stands in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, teaching those on shore:

On another occasion he began to teach by the sea. A very large crowd gathered around him so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down. And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land.

Artist Arthur DeCarlo created the window in 1996.

mary ark of the new covenant
Ark of the Covenant

2. Invocations from the Litany of the Blessed Mother

The Our Lady of Antipolo Oratory contains stained glass windows of Invocations from the Litany of the Blessed Mother. The Oratory was formerly the east vestibule of the Crypt Church, where the windows were installed in 1926, making them some of the oldest stained glass in the Basilica. The windows are fashioned in the Gothic Revival style, made of stained and leaded glass, and include Spiritual Vessel, Tower of David, Ark of the Covenant, and House of Gold.

West Transept Rose Window

3. Rose Windows

The west transept of the Great Upper Church contains a rose window, a circular window with stone dividers that suggests the shape of a rose. Symbolizing Mary as Mother, the window features the words of the angel Gabriel (“Gloria” and “Pax”) alternating with the Star of Bethlehem around the edge, and a Star of Bethlehem crowns an “M” in the center. It was installed in the Basilica in 1960. Similar windows grace the east transept and south gallery.

White House Patroness Window
White House Patroness Window

4. Patroness Windows

The west transept gallery also contains nine windows called the patroness windows. Each window has a crown on top symbolizing Mary’s protection, while below features a different symbol from the history of the United States. The symbols include the Alamo, the Statue of Liberty, a river boat, the White House, the Great Seal of the United States of America, the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, Mount Vernon, and Monticello. The east transept mirrors the west, with nine identical windows.

Assumption Window

5. Immaculate Conception and Assumption

Artist Arthur DeCarlo designed, created, and donated stained glass depictions of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption in 1992. The Assumption is found opposite the statue of the Holy Family at Rest on the Crypt Level, and is based on Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin. The depiction of the Immaculate Conception, based on the painting by Murillo, is across from the Mother of Divine Providence statue on the Crypt Level.


Elias in the Small Cloud
Elias in the Small Cloud

6. Elias in the Small Cloud

In the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Chapel, a double stained glass window depicts Elias (Elijah) consecrating Mt. Carmel to God. It includes text from Floss Carmeli, a medieval hymn honoring Our Lady written by Carmelite saint Simon Stock.

Trinity Dome Windows
A grouping of the Trinity Dome Windows

7. Trinity Dome Windows

36 stained glass windows surround the Trinity Dome, donated by the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1967. Twelve of the windows represent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, eight portray different elements of worship, and the other 16 have no symbol.

Eva and the Tree of Life
Eva and the Tree of Life

8. Eva and the Tree of Life

The Mary, Queen of All Hearts Chapel contains a double stained glass window called Eva and the Tree of Life. It emphasizes the relationship between Eve (Eva) and Mary (Ave); Mary, who bore the Christ Child, reversed the curse of sin and death brought on us by Eve.

Our Lady of Hostyn Window

9. Clerestory Windows

Measuring over 28 ft. tall and 14 ft. wide, the clerestory windows in the nave of the Great Upper Church depict Our Lady of Mercy, Christ as Teacher, Christ as Priest, and Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, along with other saints. The chancel contains another set of clerestory windows, known as The Blessed Sacrament and The Mary Window. The first shows Christ the Priest, along with St. Wenceslaus, while the other shows Our Lady of Hoystn, surrounded by St. Anne, St. Elizabeth, the prophet Anna, and St. Mary Magdalene.

Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes
Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes

10. Ambulatory Windows

The north, west, and east apses contain four windows with the themes of atonement, adoration, petition, and thanksgiving, each as portrayed in the Old and New Testament. The atonement window shows the Last Supper and Moses sprinkling the blood of the covenant. The adoration window depicts the disciples breaking bread and Abraham preparing to sacrifice Isaac. The petition window features a bowl of incense and Abel’s sacrifice. The thanksgiving window portrays the miracle of the loaves and fishes, as well as the blessing of Melchizedek.

Music and the Church: An Interview with Associate Director of Music Ben LaPrairie – Part II
Music and the Church: An Interview with Associate Director of Music Ben LaPrairie