FAQs: Commonly Asked Questions about the Basilica

How is the Basilica responding to coronavirus concerns?

Effective at 12:00 p.m., March 17, 2020, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception closed its doors to the public. This action is believed to be the first time in nearly 100 years since the National Shrine’s founding that the Shrine has closed for a non-weather-related event. The decision to close the doors of the National Shrine was made in response to recent CDC and District of Columbia guidelines and to support the efforts of authorities to minimize the spread of COVID-19, otherwise known as the novel coronavirus.

Even with this action to close our doors to the public, the National Shrine intends to continue to celebrate the solemn Mass every Sunday at 12:00 p.m. and livestream it at www.nationalshrine.org/mass. This livestream has quickly become a national and international online community of faith and support during the coronavirus pandemic, with thousands of viewers tuning in to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with other faithful from across our nation and around the world. We are committed to continuing the livestream for as long as possible while ensuring that the dedicated staff and volunteers here at Mary’s Shrine are kept safe.

» View the full statement. 

Is there a Spanish Mass at the Basilica?

Yes. A Mass in Spanish is celebrated every Sunday at 1:30 p.m. in the Crypt Church. Also, on Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, Mass in Spanish is celebrated at 2:30 p.m. in the Great Upper Church.

Where can I buy religious gifts or books?

The National Shrine has a Gift Shop and a Bookstore located on the lower level of the Basilica. Open daily except for Thanksgiving, the Gift Shop and Bookstore hours of operation are as follows:

Open Daily, Except Thanksgiving

Monday – Friday
9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (Year Round)
Saturday & Sunday
8:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (5:30 p.m. from November – March)

To shop online please visit www.nationalshrineshops.com or call the National Shrine Shops toll free at 1-800-333-4411.

How do I arrange a tour?

Free one-hour guided tours are available daily, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, Monday through Saturday at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. and on Sunday at 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. No reservations are required except for groups of 15 people or more. To schedule a guided group tour, please click here.

Do tours include the Knights (Bell) Tower?

No. Because it is not designed for public access, only the base of Knights Tower is a part of the Shrine tour.

May I get married or have my child baptized in the Shrine?

The Shrine does not perform weddings or baptisms because it is not a parish church. The U.S. bishops have designated it a national sanctuary of pilgrimage and prayer. The Catholic Church teaches that the sacraments are communal in nature — properly celebrated within the worshiping community, the parish. Please notify us of a wedding or baptism by sending a prayer request. We’ll gladly remember your intention on that important day!

Can my name be engraved on the walls in Memorial Hall?

Although there is no space remaining for additional names, the Shrine has a Memorial Registry program that allows new names to become part of the legacy of Memorial Hall. These perpetual remembrances may also be viewed online 24 hours a day from around the world on the Shrine web site.

How can I have a Mass said for someone?

Requests for individual Masses must be made in writing or in person. The recommended stipend is $10. Due to the great number of Mass requests received at the Shrine, we are unable to specify the exact date or where the Mass will be offered. Another popular spiritual benefit is the Shrine Guild. Through the Guild of the Basilica, you may enroll friends and loved ones annually or perpetually to be remembered in a monthly novena of Masses and the daily Rosary here at the National Shrine.

Are there any volunteer opportunities at the Shrine?

If you are interested in welcoming visitors to the Shrine as a Volunteer Docent to serve at one of our Information Desks and/or become a certified Tour Guide, we are always looking for motivated people. This is a perfect chance to be a personal witness to your faith and serve the Church in a meaningful, inspirational way in a beautiful and sacred setting. Please contact Dee Steel, Director of Visitor Services, at [email protected], for more information.

Can visiting choirs sing at the Shrine?

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception welcomes visiting choirs and is pleased to offer choral groups an opportunity to share their talents with those who come to the Basilica to visit and pray.

The Department of Music receives many requests and recognizes both the interest and preparation involved. While formal recitals are not the precedent, an opportunity to perform during a visit to the Basilica is usually a welcome occasion and choirs are scheduled to sing as the calendar allows. Periodically choirs are permitted to sing a prelude or postlude to the 5:15 p.m. Vigil Mass on Saturday or the 4:30 p.m. Mass on Sunday. Singing during a regularly scheduled liturgy is by invitation only.

Choir directors and tour consultants should be aware that the Basilica retains the right to reschedule a choir’s visit on short notice if a scheduling conflict occurs. While not a common occurrence, the Basilica, as a national church, periodically hosts significant events at unforeseen occasions, necessitating significant changes in schedules.

Please observe the following process when requesting opportunity to sing at the Basilica:

  1. Send a written request (letter or email) including a brief description of the choir (e.g. children’s choir of 40 voices; high school advanced choir of 20 voices; volunteer parish choir of 30 voices, etc.) and the preferred tour dates and times.
  2. Provide a list of sacred, unaccompanied repertoire the choir plans on having prepared for their tour.
  3. Include a brief representative recording of the current ensemble.

Please allow 30 days for a response from the Department of Music.

Questions should be directed to the Department of Music, 202-526-8300, ext. 120, or [email protected].

When are the Chapels and Oratories behind Mary Memorial Altar in the Crypt Church accessible?

Side Chapels and Oratories located behind Mary Memorial Altar in the Crypt Church (i.e. Our Lady of Vailankanni and Our Lady of Antipolo) are not accessible during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, and other Devotions. For more information on times, please see the Liturgy Page

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