Mar 21, 2006 / 22:00 pm
The nation’s oldest Catholic cathedral has undergone a $32-million restoration, with the intention of returning it to the purity of its 19th-century original double-dome design.
As a result, the project has seen Baltimore's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary go from dark and somber to light and bright. Architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who also designed the U.S. Capitol, designed the cathedral.
Translucent windows replaced the heavy stained-glass windows, installed in the 1940s, and the "battleship gray" walls were repainted a cream color. In addition, new pews were installed.
The Basilica Historic Trust is the nonprofit organization overlooking the restoration. Workers are just putting the finishing touches.
The cathedral, which sits on a hill in the Mount Vernon, will reopen Nov. 4, marking the historic building’s 200th anniversary with a week of activities, including a concert, tours and an interreligious service. The festivities will close with a procession of the country's Catholic bishops and a mass Nov. 12.
It was the highest point in the city when the land was acquired in 1803 by John Carroll, the nation's first Catholic bishop. The cathdedral’s cornerstone was laid in 1806. It was completed in 1821. In 1937, Pope Pius XI designated it a basilica.