Washington National Cathedral

Inside this vast, striking building are richly decorated chapels, important artwork and a stained-glass window that contains a piece of the moon.

Experience the Gothic grandeur of the Washington National Cathedral, one of the largest cathedrals in the world. Gargoyles, flying buttresses and striking sculptures adorn the exterior while mosaics, stained-glass windows and memorials decorate the interior.

The church is also known as the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. It welcomes people of all faiths as well as non-religious visitors. The institution has witnessed presidential funerals and often serves as a national focal point during times of mourning and celebrations.

After 83 years of construction, the cathedral was completed in 1990. Look for contemporary touches, among them a statue of Darth Vader from Star Wars atop the west tower. The figure was chosen as a modern-day symbol of evil.

Explore the cathedral’s art, architecture and grounds on your own or as part of a guided tour. As you walk through the building, appreciate the beauty of more than 200 stained-glass windows. Go to the west façade to see the Space Window which contains a piece of lunar rock. The geological sample was brought back to Earth by the crew of the first manned mission to the moon.

Study the ornamental screens in St. Mary’s Chapel. They depict scenes from the life of the mother of Jesus. In the crypt, visit the Bethlehem Chapel with its symbols depicting the birth of Jesus. Come for organ recitals on Monday and Wednesday. These are preceded by a short talk about the musical instrument and its 10, 647 pipes. A longer recital takes place every Sunday.

Walk around the cathedral’s 57-acre (23-hectare) grounds that include the Bishop’s Garden. This flower-filled space is modeled after a medieval walled garden. Enjoy the excellent view of the church’s south side from here.

Washington National Cathedral is located 3 miles (5 kilometers) from downtown Washington and is easily reached by bus and metro. Paid parking is available in the cathedral’s underground parking lot. There are no charges on Sunday for those attending services and organ recitals. The cathedral is open daily. Admission charges apply for guided and self-guided tours.