The Baltimore Basilica--America's First Cathedral
Posted by: Navy72
N 39° 17.675 W 076° 37.008
18S E 360577 N 4350713
Quick Description: The historic Baltimore Basilica, built from 1806-1821, was the first great metropolitan Cathedral constructed in America after the adoption of the Constitution and celebrates the right of Catholics in America to freely practice their religion.
Location: Maryland, United States
Date Posted: 1/24/2007 3:42:19 PM
Waymark Code: WM15R9
The Baltimore Basilica--America's First Cathedral is the post-renovation name for the same site listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the Old Roman Catholic Cathedral in Baltimore.
The Basilica, officially known as the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was the first great metropolitan cathedral and major religious building constructed in America after the adoption of the Constitution. After its cornerstone was laid in July 1806, it became a symbol of the religious freedom that was central to the newly formed United States. Now designated a National Historic Landmark and National Shrine, the Basilica is the site of the country’s first Catholic archdiocese.
Two Americans guided the Basilica’s original design and architecture: John Carroll, the country’s first bishop, later Archbishop of Baltimore, and cousin of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the last living signer of the Declaration of Independence; and Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Thomas Jefferson’s architect of the U.S. Capitol and father of American architecture.
In November 2006 the Basilica marked its bicentennial and the completion of a two- and one-half-year restoration and renovation. Because of the Basilica’s historic and architectural significance, the Basilica Historic Trust has relied on the expertise of renowned historic preservation architect John G. Waite Associates of Albany, N.Y., and noted historic preservation contractor Henry H. Lewis of Baltimore for the Basilica’s renovation and restoration.
Source: Maryland Historical Trust
Description: The Roman Catholic Cathedral in Baltimore is a cruciform building with an elongated nave and apse, constructed of brick clad in porphyritic granite. A wooden dome with copper sheathing topped by a simple cross is set on an octagonal drum, and tops the rear portico of the church. The hexastyle front portico, added in 1863, has Ionic columns. The large central door is flanked by two smaller doors and has a square window above to light the choir. Along both sides of the cathedral is a series of small stained glass windows set in recessed arched panels. Plain panels fill the wall space between the windows and cornice. Two square towers with arcaded belfries and onion domes are located on the west end of the nave. These were added from 1831 to 1837. The apse is connected by a covered walk to the Archbishop's residence. Internally, the cathedral is vaulted by several shallow domes, and the entire structure exhibits an exceptionally good mixture of spherical and cube-like shapes. The cathedral lot is surrounded by an iron fence with Greek Revival gateposts at the west entrance to the grounds. This was designed by Robert Cary Long in 1841. Enclosed in the grounds is the Sexton's House, which has been used more recently the actual residence of the Archbishop. This is a two-story brick structure also designed by Long and built in 1840. It has brick quoins and arched first-floor windows. The projecting foyer may be a later addition.
Significance: The first Roman Catholic Cathedral built in the United States, the Basilica of the Assumption was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Construction was begun in 1806, on a lot acquired from Col. John Eager Howard, and added to from time to time until it was completed in 1863. In 1789, an Episcopal See had been established in Baltimore and Reverend John Carroll elected the first bishop, with a diocese covering thirteen states. Bishop Carroll ordered the building of the Cathedral and was consecrated Archbishop there in 1808. He is one of seven prelates (including James Cardinal Gibbons) buried in the crypt beneath the archepiscopal throne. In addition, ten Provincial and three Plenary Councils have been held in the Basilica and thirty bishops have been consecrated there. Because of its unique role in the history of the Catholic Church in America, the Cathedral was designated a minor Basilica by Pope Pius XI in 1937. The Cathedral is considered one of the best examples of early Classical Revival architecture in the nation.
Cathedral & Mulberry St.
Baltimore, MD United States
County / Borough / Parish: Baltimore, Baltimore City
Year listed: 1969
Historic (Areas of) Significance: Architecture/Engineering, Event
Periods of significance: 1800-1824, 1825-1849, 1850-1874
Historic function: Religion
Current function: Religion, Culture
Privately owned?: yes
Primary Web Site: [Web Link]
Secondary Website 1: [Web Link]
Season start / Season finish: Not listed
Hours of operation: Not listed
Secondary Website 2: Not listed
National Historic Landmark Link: Not listed
Please give the date and brief account of your visit. Include any additional observations or information that you may have, particularly about the current condition of the site. Additional photos are highly encouraged, but not mandatory.