When Bishop Thomas Shahan first presented the idea of the National Shrine to Pope Pius X in 1913, he hoped to create a building that would enhance sacramental life and serve as a “National Monument or testimony” resting “on a national devotion to the Blessed Virgin.” Now, over a century after the placement of the foundation stone on September 23, 1920, the National Shrine embodies this vision in a “distinctively American” style, serving as a place of worship, pilgrimage, evangelization and reconciliation. Through the generosity of generations of American Catholics, it stands as our nation’s preeminent Marian shrine and patronal church, rivaling the great sanctuaries of Europe and the world, not only in size and stature, but also in beauty, dignity and sanctity.
As our centennial year comes to a close, we invite you to take a look at the special posts celebrating our 100 years as America’s Catholic Church.
100 Years in Pictures at America’s Catholic Church
See some of the most significant events in the life of the Basilica with this collection of historic photos. From the blessing of the land to the dedication of the Trinity Dome, this post gives you a bird’s-eye view of many significant events that have taken place at the National Shrine.
The National Shrine: Then and Now
Built by generations of faithful American Catholics to honor the patroness of our nation, the National Shrine has been 100 years in the making. Its Romanesque-Byzantine style made it possible to use the building long before it was completed. Take a look at the construction process of the National Shrine and the completed spaces today.
What makes the National Shrine America’s Catholic Church?
Read personal stories from the faithful as they share their favorite memories of the Basilica and what it has meant to them. From serving as a sanctuary of prayer and pilgrimage to a place of celebration for major events such as papal visits and the first canonization on American soil, the National Shrine holds a special place in the hearts of American Catholics.
Watch the Basilica’s Centennial Mass
On September 20, 2020, the National Shrine held a special Mass in honor of the 100th anniversary of the placing of the foundation stone, inaugurating a year-long celebration of the Centennial Jubilee of America’s Catholic Church. His Eminence Wilton Cardinal Gregory, Archbishop of Washington and Chairman of the National Shrine’s Board of Trustees served as the principal celebrant and homilist. If you were unable to attend the Centennial Mass in person or watch it live, we invite you to watch it now!
100 Years in Video at America’s Catholic Church
Join us on a journey through the life of America’s Catholic Church as captured on film. From the resumption of construction following World War II, to Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1979, and the first canonization ceremony to take place on American soil in 2015, the National Shrine has been at the heart of countless historic moments for American Catholics. See the most significant events captured on film in this commemorative post highlighting historic videos from the National Shrine.
“Distinctively American”: The Architectural Vision of the National Shrine
When Bishop Thomas Shahan first guided the construction of the National Shrine, he sought an aesthetic that would reflect the patristic understanding of beauty and eternal truth. He strove to create a building that would enhance sacramental life and serve as a “National Monument or testimony” resting “on a national devotion to the Blessed Virgin.” Today we invite you to learn more about the history and development of the architecture and art of the Basilica.
10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Basilica
Maybe you’ve only come to the Basilica for special Masses, or perhaps you even visit daily. But how well do you know America’s Catholic Church? Did you know that the Basilica’s Knight’s Tower is the second-tallest building in Washington, D.C., surpassed only by the Washington Monument? Do you know how many annual visitors the Basilica receives? Learn the answers to these questions and more in this post.
Bishop Thomas Shahan: Founder of America’s Catholic Church
While the name Thomas Shahan may not be familiar to many American Catholics, without him, America’s Catholic Church would not exist as we know it today. It was Thomas Shahan who first presented a plan for a national church in honor of the Blessed Mother in Washington, D.C to Pope Pius X in 1913, and guided it from conception to construction.
Basilica Insider: Making the Trinity Dome
Did you know that the Trinity Dome was made with 14 million pieces of tesserae? Featuring the Holy Trinity, the Immaculate Conception, and a litany of saints, this breathtaking mosaic is known as the “crowning jewel” of the Basilica. Get an inside look into the intensive two-year process that brought this stunning work of art to life – see footage of the artists at work creating the mosaic, behind-the-scenes photos, and more in this Basilica Insider post.
Celebrating a Century as America’s Catholic Church
The United States has long been considered the great melting pot, where people from many diverse lands make their home. As America’s Catholic Church, the Basilica is proud to honor this rich heritage with over 80 chapels and oratories dedicated to the Mother of God and representing peoples from every corner of the globe. We are proud to celebrate the variety of cultures and traditions of the faithful, embodying the ethnic and cultural diversity of the United States and the unity and universality of the Catholic Church.
Thank you for being a part of America’s Catholic Church. May the Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception continue to serve as a place of hope and devotion for the faithful for centuries to come!