I'm not the most religious person, but I spend a lot of time visiting churches. It's the beauty and the serenity of the atmosphere. That, and if ever you don't feel like battling the crowds in a country's popular museum, you can get a great taste of the historical art and architecture at the local cathedrals. No matter the wealth of a country's populace, they always invest in their churches (or mosques or synagogues. You know what I mean.)
I swung by the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception because the pics looked pretty on Pinterest and I was in a mood to explore. That's all the motivation I need sometimes. It's the largest Catholic church in North America and the tallest inhabitable building in DC. It took 40 years to build, 1921-1960, and receives around one million visitors per year. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have both stopped by.
Based on the name, you can guess the church has a Madonna theme, but it's also big on mosaics. Even the dome on the church-- the exterior and interior -- are tiled. It was well beyond worth the trip over just to take a look around. Pictures don't do this church justice.
Check out a few images:
The main sanctuary, and organs:
A few of the Madonnas, representing cultures around the globe:
Our Lady of Vailankanni:
Our Lady of Antipolo:
Our Lady of Camarin:
Our Lady of La Vang:
Our Lady of China:
Her official title is "Our Lady of Charity"; the placard didn't list a country. I wonder where she is from. She's clearly "of color":
Our Lady of Altötting:
I couldn't find the name of this chapel, not even on the website. It seemed to be under construction. The gate was locked so I couldn't get in to take pics and the chapel was devoid of furniture. I recently got a fancy lens for my camera and was able to get up close shots of the images. It looks like West African art to me. Can't wait to see this room when it's completed.
I was duly amused by the bling on the baby Jesus in the lap Our Lady of Pompei:
Our Lady of Siluva:
I think this was a mosaic from the East Apse in the Lower Church. Not sure.
And, of course, the ceilings got their due sparkle:
I guess this would be the centerpiece of the church. It's a gigantic blue-eyed, blond Christ, completely in mosaic. They call it, Christ in Majesty:
The stained glass windows aren't so bad either: