The Traveling Catholic

The Traveling Catholic

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Baltimore Basilica

Our last vacation was to Baltimore last month.  While we were there we attended mass at the nation's first cathedral:  the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Not only did we attend mass, but we also took their guided tour.  I must say the tour is a must-do!  This cathedral's design was overseen by John Carroll, the USA's first bishop.  Over the years, things had been changed and covered up but a few years ago they completely restored it to it's original design.  It's a beautiful cathedral and my pictures don't do it justice, but they will give you an idea of how fantastic it really is.

This is the outside.  It was so big that it was difficult to get a good picture of the outside.  It has a magnificent dome that this picture doesn't even show. 

One of my favorite things to look at when we visit a new church is the stations of the cross.  I always enjoy seeing the many variations of them.  These were fabulous paintings.  Most of them were bright (due to restoration) like this...

A couple looked dark.  The tour guide explained that the sunlight over the years had damaged the paintings, but a couple of them were in the undercroft so they are original.  This is one of them...
The lectern...

The ceiling of the dome.  There is a dove in the center.  This picture doesn't capture the depth of this dome, but it was amazing to sit under it during mass.  I found myself constantly looking up!  It's actually like an upside down wedding cake.  You definitely feel the Holy Spirit when you are standing under it!  And it was quite an engineering marvel at the time.

Along the bottom part of the dome area were these four inlaid pictures representing Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  They had been covered up at one point, but the recent restoration uncovered them.  I'm so glad because they were absolutely beautiful.

St. Michael the Archangel altar...

Pipe organ.  It's just to the left of the altar.  The choir loft was on the opposite side of the church, but somehow I missed getting a picture of it.

View of the altar from the back of the church.

One of the other domes.  It wasn't quite as big as the Holy Spirit one, but beautiful all the same!
The Bishop's seat...

We had lunch reservations across the street so we had to leave the tour early.  We were sad that we missed the tour of the undercroft.  It happened to be Mother's Day so we went back to the church after lunch to take a picture of me with the kids in the church.
The tour guide was still in the church and happily volunteered to take us down to the undercroft.  I'm so glad she did!  Lots of fascinating stories about it.  Apparently, the builders misread the original plans and didn't actually build it.  Instead, they filled it with sand!!  During the 2006 renovation all of that sand was removed....very carefully because there were priceless things stored down there.
Here are a couple of pictures of what you see when you first enter the undercroft.

I'm no engineer, but I found this interesting.  Forgive me if I don't explain it well, but there were these sloped areas of bricks down there.  The tour guide explained that that was how they made the building hold up the giant dome on the roof...they built these big inverted things under the ground.  Again, if you are an engineer, I apologize for my description!
They now have a blessed sacrament chapel down there...

And there's also a crypt.

We got a little treat on our tour.  The items Saint John Paul II used when he said mass there had just been taken out for something else and we got to see them!

They also have a little museum room. 
This is Saint John Paul II's vestments from his visit.

And these are some items of Cardinal Shehan.

All in all, I think they've had twenty-something future saints visit this church at one time or another.  (Sorry, I don't remember the exact number, but there's a plaque in the church with all of their names.)
John Paul II, Mother Theresa and Elizabeth Ann Seton were just a few of the names.
There are two very large paintings in the back of the church.  They were gifts from King Louis XVIII from France.
This one was on the left...

And this one was on the right...

At times I wasn't sure if I was in a church or a museum!  LOTS of history here.   If you're ever in Baltimore I encourage you to stop by and take the tour.
To see more about it you can also visit their website here.