Calista Gingrich – Preserving the Legacy of America’s First Cathedral

by Calista Gingerich

Over 200 years ago, on July 7, 1806, the cornerstone of the first American cathedral was laid in Baltimore, Maryland. Today, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, known as the Basilica of Baltimore, stands as a representation of America’s history and commitment to religious freedom.

After the adoption of the United States Constitution, American Catholics, who had been persecuted for more than a century in the colonies, sought to build a new cathedral where they could worship freely.

Suggested by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Thomas Jefferson Architect of the Capitol and father of American architecture two plans To Bishop John Carroll, our nation’s first bishop.

Instead of building the church in the Gothic Revival style that was popular at the time, Bishop Carroll chose a neoclassical design to reflect the architecture of the new national capital of Washington, D.C.

according to Jack Whitethe principal architect of a Baltimore church restoration project in the early 2000s, Bishop Carroll and Latrobe’s collaboration was “indeed extraordinary and extremely important because John Carroll wanted a forward-looking symbol of the Catholic Church and a symbol of the church’s importance in the United States.”

When completed in 1821, the basilica was the most architecturally advanced building in the United States.

The Baltimore church is designed to be flooded with light, with transparent windows, white hues, and a double-shell wooden dome lit by the sky. she was Jeffersonan accomplished architect, proposed the dome structure after being struck by inspiration during a trip to Paris.

The church has become the site of many historical monuments of the Catholic Church in America. During the First Baltimore Regional Council in 1829, the need for Catholic schools in the basilica was declared and then, during the Third Plenary, the Baltimore Catechism was commissioned there.

In 1877, the founder of the Knights of Columbus, Blessed Michael McGivney, was ordained in the basilica, followed by ordination of the church. The first African American Priest in the United States in 1891.

In 1937, the church was elevated to a chapel by Pope Pius XI, and proclaimed a National Landmark in 1972, And the designated a National Shrine in 1993.

Over the years, Baltimore Church has been Visit by Saint John Paul II, Saint Teresa of Calcutta, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

As George Weigel, biographer of Pope John Paul II, said, “No other Catholic edifice in America can claim to have seen so much history made within its walls.”

For this reason, the Basilica of the Historical Assumption Fund It was established in 1976 to protect, repair, and restore Baltimore’s famous church.

However, over the centuries, significant modifications have been made that have changed the look and feel of the church. Stained-glass windows replaced translucent windows, dark paint was added to the walls, and dark marble covered the floors.

In 2004, to restore Bishop Carol Latrobe’s original vision for the church, Cardinal William Keeler and the Trust undertook a restoration project of more than $30 million over a 32-month period. Funded by the generosity of private donors, the project also built a chapel in the lower grounds, repairing the church’s infrastructure, and rendering it impeded.

Today, more than 100,000 visitors Come to Baltimore Church every year to experience the beauty, history, and splendor of America’s first cathedral.

As William E. Lowery, who serves as Archbishop of Baltimore and president of the Trust, said, “Today the basilica stands as a shining reminder of our nation’s unwavering commitment to religious freedom and serves as the cradle of the Catholic Church in the United States.”

Please join the Gingrich Foundation by giving a gift to Basilica of the Historical Assumption Fund and support its mission to preserve, preserve and restore this important historical and religious landmark for years to come.


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