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A basilica seen from close-up. It has a tall set of stairs and a tower. Shutterstock

10 beautiful houses of worship in D.C., mapped

From churches to synagogues to monasteries, see where you can find the most architecturally stunning houses of worship in the nation’s capital

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The nation’s capital is a city replete with a multitude of architectural achievements. From monuments to government buildings to museums, the District holds some of the most popular tourist attractions in North America. The diversity of the city has also brought with it many cultures, traditions, and religions. This coupled with the city’s architectural prowess has led to the construction of some very intriguing and stunning houses of worship.

Curbed DC has compiled a list of some of the most beautiful churches, synagogues, mosques, and shrines in the nation’s capital. Feel free to visit them for their aesthetic appeal or to deepen your connection with the universe.

Note: The following mapped points are listed in geographical order, from the most north to the most south.

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1. Nineteenth Street Baptist Church

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4606 16th St NW
Washington, DC 20011

16th Street NW, often referred to by Washingtonians as Church Row, is where this historic Baptist congregation finds its home. The parish’s origins can be traced back almost two centuries to August 1839. Many of the congregants, under the leadership of Reverend Sampson White, decided it would be better to become an independent organization, separate from the First Baptist Church where African-American parishioners had to deal with issues of prejudice and segregation. Eventually, after much effort, this was accomplished, and, through the years, the church has grown exponentially.

Over 100 years after the congregation’s founding, the parish relocated from its original building on 19th & I streets NW to a more spacious residence. The year was 1975, and the edifice moved into was formerly a Jewish synagogue belonging to the B’nai Israel congregation. Instead of demolishing the wondrous building and starting from scratch, leaders of the Nineteenth Street Baptist organization decided to welcome the synagogue’s design with openness and understanding.

The construct is a beautiful rectangular house of worship fashioned from grey limestone. Some of the interior accoutrements remain unchanged, reflecting the previous inhabitants, while much of it has been redesigned to reflect the new. There is a Star of David gracing the front entrance tiles of the foyer. Within the Star of David is a map of Israel. The symbol leads to a prayer room punctuated by a stained-glass window depicting Jesus in holy contemplation. Crosses and scripture passages were added to three of the entrances, and the interior pulpit has been re-orchestrated to accommodate the Baptist services.

Outside, above the main entryway, is an engraving in huge embossed letters. It reads, “TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF MAN.” This conscious intermingling of designs preaches a coexistence and tolerance of one another’s beliefs.

2. Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America

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1400 Quincy St NE
Washington, DC 20017

Go to the Brookland neighborhood of Northeast Washington, D.C., and you may hear Franciscan monks humming incantations, chanting while performing ritualistic ablutions, and shuffling around in long brown robes. Located on the hill of Mount Saint Sepulcher is a Franciscan complex, a friary that is both huge and ornate. The monastery is a tremendous and expertly constructed series of buildings that, among other things, house and train friars devoted to the Franciscan order. 

The complex was constructed in 1899 and was designed by architect Aristide Leonardi. The Memorial Church of the Holy Sepulcher was fashioned in the Neo-Byzantine revival style, using the beautiful Hagia Sophia in Constantinople as a reference. Leonardi incorporated neo-Romanesque influences on the monastery building, which is just one of the edifices within the large complex. The monastery is attached to the church. 

The friary complex contains 15 chapels dedicated to the stations of the cross, all with over 200 translations of the “Hail Mary” prayer in both archaic and modern languages. There are replicas of many of the shrines of Israel gracing the extensive compound. The replicas give sightseers an opportunity to experience the essence of the Holy Land all without having to travel overseas. The cloister also has a Lourdes grotto, fashioned after the renowned holy place of France, and a replica of the catacombs in Rome. The hallowed sepulcher holds the bones of St. Benignus of Armagh, St. Patrick’s favorite disciple, who died in the year 467.  

The interior of D.C.’s Franciscan Monastery. There are huge ceilings, arches, and pews. In the middle is an altar surrounded by four columns. LightRocket via Getty Images

3. Adas Israel Congregation

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2850 Quebec St NW
Washington, DC 20008

The third iteration of the Adas Israel Synagogue was dedicated in 1951 in the Cleveland Park area of Quebec Street NW. The building was designed by architects Frank Grad and Sons in an architectural style favored by many synagogues after World War II.

The edifice is vast, about 95,230 square feet, and incredibly sleek for its size, which makes it all the more awe-inspiring. The temple is built with sharp perpendicular and parallel lines, foregoing the roundedness favored by bygone architectural styles of Adas’s past. The beige immensity of this synagogue makes it look like a tremendous immaculate cube exuding hallowed reverence. 

The building cost roughly $1.3 million to complete, which is staggering compared to the $90,000 invested in the construction of the congregation’s previous Sixth & I location. It is the largest conservative synagogue in Washington, D.C., and currently has 1,450 households as members with roughly 350 children enrolled in the religious school.

Within the edifice is a 300-seat chapel, two auditoriums, and a balconied sanctuary that seats 1,500 congregants. There are also five hefty bronze doors leading to a lobby constructed of red marble, a sprawling plaza area, and an Ark shrouded in black onyx and marble.

Adas is a term from the Torah, meaning congregation and community. From the church’s humble beginnings over a century ago to now, Adas remains a community-oriented synagogue, seeking to enliven the hearts and minds of the residents of D.C.

Adas Israel Congregation building. The side of the building features a menorah figure etched in stone. Tall trees are nearby. The Washington Post via Getty Im

4. Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

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Looming majestically a quarter mile from the Brookland Metro station is the largest Roman Catholic church in North America. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the tallest habitable building in Washington, D.C., and one of the 10 largest churches in the world. Neo-Byzantine architecture makes it seem transposed from another place and bygone era, one that is both ethereal and impressive.

Construction began on the church in 1920 and finished 39 years later in 1959. A series of Byzantine-influenced mosaics lie within the hallowed walls of the shrine, beautifully ordaining the interior and creating an aura of religiosity coupled with quiet contemplation. 

The shrine has 70 individual chapels devoted to the Virgin Mary and an upper church that can fit up to 10,000 worshippers. The Basilica is spacious for a reason. They host an estimated 1 million journeying pilgrims per year and remain open every single day of the year.

Many of the Catholic church’s biggest contemporary figures have visited the Basilica, including two recently canonized saints, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Pope John Paul II. The current sovereign of Vatican City and the leader of the Catholic church, the ever-popular Pope Francis, visited the shrine to administer mass in 2015. The previous Pope, Benedict XVI, visited during his tenure as well, bestowing a Golden Rose to the Basilica.

The edifice holds the largest collection of contemporary ecclesiastical art in the world. The church also offers a diminutive museum showcasing papal artifacts in the lower level’s crypt section. One of such artifacts is Pope John VI’s Coronation Tiara, which has been on display in the Basilica since 1968.

A giant basilica with a dome and a separate tower. Cars line up in the front driveway. The dome has blue hues. AFP via Getty Images

5. Washington National Cathedral

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3101 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, DC 20016

Perhaps the most famous house of worship on this list is the awe-inducing Washington National Cathedral. Constructed in the Neo-Gothic style of the late 18th century, the National Cathedral is the second largest church in the United States and the fourth tallest structure in the nation’s capital.

Construction on the cathedral began in 1907 with the laying of the foundation stone. President Theodore Roosevelt was in attendance overseeing the commencement of the enterprise along with 20,000 other curious citizens. The building process lasted for 83 more years, ending in 1990 with the placement of the final finial in the presence of then President George HW Bush.

The great Episcopalian Cathedral boasts some impressive sights, from the 10,000-piece “Creation” Rose window to the 112 gargoyles to the 215 stained-glass windows to Helen Keller’s resting place. Vaulted ceilings give the house of worship an expansive and airy aesthetic, imbuing visitors with a gothic ambience that lurks in every hallowed corner of the edifice. Monolithic pillars stretch up almost endlessly, supporting the intricately ordained roof and walls. The interior of the building is a work of art. Everything was sculpted and carved with tedious painstaking precision.

The cathedral also has great historical significance. The Space Window is a stained-glass depiction of the great beyond in all its immensity, commemorating Apollo 11’s landing on the moon. Within the shards of glass is a 7.18-gram lunar rock from the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility.

The great Martin Luther King, Jr. did his final sermon from the pulpit here on the Sunday before he was assassinated. There is a sculpture of him along with many others who influenced society benevolently. Additionally, the funeral service of almost every U.S. President has taken place within the cathedral’s spacious halls.

The facade of a neo-Gothic cathedral shown at sunrise. It has intricate spires and windows. Getty Images/iStockphoto

6. St. Nicholas Primatial Cathedral of the Orthodox Church in America

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3500 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20007

St. Nicholas Cathedral stands out from its contemporaries in many ways. It is an Orthodox Church in America building designed in a Russian style of architecture. Passing sightseers can see it standing imperiously on Massachusetts Avenue NW, emanating large-scale power and beautiful simplicity of design.

The exterior of the church was made to resemble the St. Demetrius Cathedral of Vladimir, Russia. The structure is comprised of a series of rounded arches and windows and domes, all a silvery-gray hue, making the building look almost metallic at a distance.

The parish was founded in 1930 and has relocated a few times, moving periodically from differing houses of worship in the early years. St. Nicholas Cathedral on Massachusetts Avenue NW was officially completed in 1962, but was in use by a Russian Orthodox congregation as early as 1954, when parishioners used to worship and hold mass in the substructure basement area of the building. The contemporary congregation has been an independent, American church since 1970.

The interior of the cathedral is painted with an elaborate series of religious iconography. Colorful murals envelop and encompass every nook and curvaceous partition, slanting gracefully around the immense inner chambers and contemplative areas of worship. Saints, angels, religious figures, scenes from the Bible, and more were professionally painted by a team of Russian iconographers from Moscow and were led by accomplished artist Alexander Maskalionov. The detailed job of iconography commenced in 1991 and was completed three years later. The church is still a wondrous sight to behold.

This item has been updated to reflect the independence of the church.

7. Islamic Center of Washington, D.C.

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2551 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008

The Islamic Center is located on Massachusetts Avenue NW, the bustling D.C. street lined with embassies, often referred to as Embassy Row. Architect Mario Rossi designed the mosque in the Neo-Mamluk style of architecture made popular in 15th century Egypt. He was also behind the construction of similar edifices in Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt.

This cultural center is a beautiful one and has a graceful aesthetic. The exterior walls are ornately fashioned, and the center of the mosque showcases a brilliant spire that reaches towards the sky. The building is surrounded by the flags of Islamic countries spanning the globe, and many of the interior furnishings are international gifts from afar. The carpets were a gift from the Shah of Iran, the chandelier hails from Egypt, and the wall tiles were a present from Turkey. 

Upon its opening in 1957, the Islamic Center of Washington was the biggest mosque in the Western Hemisphere. It has an impressive history that can be traced all the way back to an inkling of an idea, the amorphous thought which found shape in 1944. At this time, the United States was entangled in the arduous throes of World War II. The building of religious edifices wasn’t on the forefront of public consciousness. Additionally, the separation of church and state meant that no government funds would be allotted to the building of houses of worship. 

In 1944, when Turkish ambassador Münir Ertugün passed away, the District was devoid of a mosque to hold his funeral. This became a concern for Islamic diplomats, and in 1948 Egyptian Ambassador Kamil Abdel Rahim decided to embark on a fundraising campaign to gather the funds necessary for the building of a great mosque. He toiled many hours, traversing high seas and visiting a multitude of Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Here, he solicited monetary support for the immense project with the hearty backing of the Washington diplomatic community.

The mosque was completed in 1954 and was dedicated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1957. An estimated 6,000 people attend prayer services at the mosque each Friday.    

The facade of a mosque seen from below. At the top is a tower. Shutterstock

8. Chapel in Oak Hill Cemetery

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3001 R St NW
Washington, DC 20007

Georgetown’s Oak Hill Cemetery is a 22-acre expanse speckled with historical Victorian-style monuments and tombstones. Peruse the highest ridge of the garden cemetery, and you are sure to stumble upon the Oak Hill Cemetery Chapel, which is often called a miniature gem of Gothic architecture. The beautifully constructed chapel is much smaller than many houses of worship in D.C., but that takes nothing away from its splendor. 

Completed in 1850, this single-story building is only 23 feet in height and 41 feet in length. Designed by James Renwick, Jr., the chapel is decorated with lancet stained-glass windows, a high and steep sloping roof, and an ornate rose window hovering angelically above the building’s entrance. The interior walls are supported by old-style wall buttresses, a common accoutrement in the architecture of bygone days.

The tiny yet powerful church was constructed of gneiss from the Potomac River, some sandstone, and wood. The mouth of the building, it’s entrance, is a large painted door protected by a wrought iron gate. Within, visitors might notice a northwest cornerstone with the historic date of the chapel’s construction, an etching inscribed nearly 170 years ago.      

9. Sixth & I Historic Synagogue

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600 I St NW
Washington, DC 20001

While the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue opened in 1908, it’s historical roots are embedded much deeper in the past. The founding of this tabernacle started all the way back in 1876, with another synagogue, on the corner of 6th and G street NW. Ulysses S. Grant was in attendance at its dedication, making him the first sitting U.S. President to attend a synagogue service. 

Later, the congregation expanded and the heads of Adas decided to relocate. In 1908, after three years of construction, a new synagogue was dedicated on the corner of Sixth and I streets NW. Decades passed here, and the number of congregants grew and grew. They decided to move once again. The congregation relocated to the Cleveland Park area where they still worship today. The previous building on Sixth and I streets NW remains as a cultural center, a living historical monument, and a non-denominational, non-traditional Jewish synagogue. 

The original location was designed by architect Louis Levi who was heavily influenced by the Moorish, Romanesque, and Byzantine revival styles. The house of worship is quite impressive and displays two huge overarching doorways, rounded stained glassed windows, and three ornate Byzantine-looking domes on its roof. Inside, the synagogue is spacious and imbued with a historical feel, transporting one into the past and instilling a sense of reverence to the unsuspecting visitor.  

The top of a synagogue, showing a dome and the Star of David. The Washington Post via Getty Im

10. St. Patrick's Catholic Church

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619 10th St NW
Washington, DC 20001

Saint Patrick’s was founded in 1794, making it the oldest parish in the Federal City, which is what Washington, D.C., was known as back then. At this time, many Irish immigrants were living in D.C. and working on the construction of federal buildings. The church was meant to provide a place of refuge and worship for such Irish immigrants.

It is named after the patron saint and Apostle of Ireland, St. Patrick. The third iteration, of which this blurb is directed, was designed by Laurence O’Connor and was dedicated in 1884.

O’Connor designed the church in the Victorian Gothic Revival style popular at the time, giving it an old world aesthetic that is both looming and historical. The exterior is constructed of blue-gray gneiss, trimmed with sandstone and polished crimson-gray granite. Both the exterior and the interior of the edifice are ornamented with tediously and beautifully crafted stained-glass windows, depicting scenes from the Bible as well as portraying vignettes of Saint Patrick’s life.

Within the church, onlookers will likely notice one of the most celebrated religious organs in Washington, D.C., consisting of 2,600 individual pipes, three manual keyboards, 44 ranks, and 34 stops. Visitors will also enjoy a wide array of sculptures fashioned after religious figures, such as St. Thomas More, St. Anthony of Padua, and St. Patrick. 

A stone church seen from across the street. The church has an English style and includes a Rose window.

1. Nineteenth Street Baptist Church

4606 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20011

16th Street NW, often referred to by Washingtonians as Church Row, is where this historic Baptist congregation finds its home. The parish’s origins can be traced back almost two centuries to August 1839. Many of the congregants, under the leadership of Reverend Sampson White, decided it would be better to become an independent organization, separate from the First Baptist Church where African-American parishioners had to deal with issues of prejudice and segregation. Eventually, after much effort, this was accomplished, and, through the years, the church has grown exponentially.

Over 100 years after the congregation’s founding, the parish relocated from its original building on 19th & I streets NW to a more spacious residence. The year was 1975, and the edifice moved into was formerly a Jewish synagogue belonging to the B’nai Israel congregation. Instead of demolishing the wondrous building and starting from scratch, leaders of the Nineteenth Street Baptist organization decided to welcome the synagogue’s design with openness and understanding.

The construct is a beautiful rectangular house of worship fashioned from grey limestone. Some of the interior accoutrements remain unchanged, reflecting the previous inhabitants, while much of it has been redesigned to reflect the new. There is a Star of David gracing the front entrance tiles of the foyer. Within the Star of David is a map of Israel. The symbol leads to a prayer room punctuated by a stained-glass window depicting Jesus in holy contemplation. Crosses and scripture passages were added to three of the entrances, and the interior pulpit has been re-orchestrated to accommodate the Baptist services.

Outside, above the main entryway, is an engraving in huge embossed letters. It reads, “TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF MAN.” This conscious intermingling of designs preaches a coexistence and tolerance of one another’s beliefs.

4606 16th St NW
Washington, DC 20011

2. Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America

1400 Quincy St NE, Washington, DC 20017
The interior of D.C.’s Franciscan Monastery. There are huge ceilings, arches, and pews. In the middle is an altar surrounded by four columns. LightRocket via Getty Images

Go to the Brookland neighborhood of Northeast Washington, D.C., and you may hear Franciscan monks humming incantations, chanting while performing ritualistic ablutions, and shuffling around in long brown robes. Located on the hill of Mount Saint Sepulcher is a Franciscan complex, a friary that is both huge and ornate. The monastery is a tremendous and expertly constructed series of buildings that, among other things, house and train friars devoted to the Franciscan order. 

The complex was constructed in 1899 and was designed by architect Aristide Leonardi. The Memorial Church of the Holy Sepulcher was fashioned in the Neo-Byzantine revival style, using the beautiful Hagia Sophia in Constantinople as a reference. Leonardi incorporated neo-Romanesque influences on the monastery building, which is just one of the edifices within the large complex. The monastery is attached to the church. 

The friary complex contains 15 chapels dedicated to the stations of the cross, all with over 200 translations of the “Hail Mary” prayer in both archaic and modern languages. There are replicas of many of the shrines of Israel gracing the extensive compound. The replicas give sightseers an opportunity to experience the essence of the Holy Land all without having to travel overseas. The cloister also has a Lourdes grotto, fashioned after the renowned holy place of France, and a replica of the catacombs in Rome. The hallowed sepulcher holds the bones of St. Benignus of Armagh, St. Patrick’s favorite disciple, who died in the year 467.  

1400 Quincy St NE
Washington, DC 20017

3. Adas Israel Congregation

2850 Quebec St NW, Washington, DC 20008
Adas Israel Congregation building. The side of the building features a menorah figure etched in stone. Tall trees are nearby. The Washington Post via Getty Im

The third iteration of the Adas Israel Synagogue was dedicated in 1951 in the Cleveland Park area of Quebec Street NW. The building was designed by architects Frank Grad and Sons in an architectural style favored by many synagogues after World War II.

The edifice is vast, about 95,230 square feet, and incredibly sleek for its size, which makes it all the more awe-inspiring. The temple is built with sharp perpendicular and parallel lines, foregoing the roundedness favored by bygone architectural styles of Adas’s past. The beige immensity of this synagogue makes it look like a tremendous immaculate cube exuding hallowed reverence. 

The building cost roughly $1.3 million to complete, which is staggering compared to the $90,000 invested in the construction of the congregation’s previous Sixth & I location. It is the largest conservative synagogue in Washington, D.C., and currently has 1,450 households as members with roughly 350 children enrolled in the religious school.

Within the edifice is a 300-seat chapel, two auditoriums, and a balconied sanctuary that seats 1,500 congregants. There are also five hefty bronze doors leading to a lobby constructed of red marble, a sprawling plaza area, and an Ark shrouded in black onyx and marble.

Adas is a term from the Torah, meaning congregation and community. From the church’s humble beginnings over a century ago to now, Adas remains a community-oriented synagogue, seeking to enliven the hearts and minds of the residents of D.C.

2850 Quebec St NW
Washington, DC 20008

4. Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Washington, DC 20064
A giant basilica with a dome and a separate tower. Cars line up in the front driveway. The dome has blue hues. AFP via Getty Images

Looming majestically a quarter mile from the Brookland Metro station is the largest Roman Catholic church in North America. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the tallest habitable building in Washington, D.C., and one of the 10 largest churches in the world. Neo-Byzantine architecture makes it seem transposed from another place and bygone era, one that is both ethereal and impressive.

Construction began on the church in 1920 and finished 39 years later in 1959. A series of Byzantine-influenced mosaics lie within the hallowed walls of the shrine, beautifully ordaining the interior and creating an aura of religiosity coupled with quiet contemplation. 

The shrine has 70 individual chapels devoted to the Virgin Mary and an upper church that can fit up to 10,000 worshippers. The Basilica is spacious for a reason. They host an estimated 1 million journeying pilgrims per year and remain open every single day of the year.

Many of the Catholic church’s biggest contemporary figures have visited the Basilica, including two recently canonized saints, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Pope John Paul II. The current sovereign of Vatican City and the leader of the Catholic church, the ever-popular Pope Francis, visited the shrine to administer mass in 2015. The previous Pope, Benedict XVI, visited during his tenure as well, bestowing a Golden Rose to the Basilica.

The edifice holds the largest collection of contemporary ecclesiastical art in the world. The church also offers a diminutive museum showcasing papal artifacts in the lower level’s crypt section. One of such artifacts is Pope John VI’s Coronation Tiara, which has been on display in the Basilica since 1968.

5. Washington National Cathedral

3101 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016
The facade of a neo-Gothic cathedral shown at sunrise. It has intricate spires and windows. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Perhaps the most famous house of worship on this list is the awe-inducing Washington National Cathedral. Constructed in the Neo-Gothic style of the late 18th century, the National Cathedral is the second largest church in the United States and the fourth tallest structure in the nation’s capital.

Construction on the cathedral began in 1907 with the laying of the foundation stone. President Theodore Roosevelt was in attendance overseeing the commencement of the enterprise along with 20,000 other curious citizens. The building process lasted for 83 more years, ending in 1990 with the placement of the final finial in the presence of then President George HW Bush.

The great Episcopalian Cathedral boasts some impressive sights, from the 10,000-piece “Creation” Rose window to the 112 gargoyles to the 215 stained-glass windows to Helen Keller’s resting place. Vaulted ceilings give the house of worship an expansive and airy aesthetic, imbuing visitors with a gothic ambience that lurks in every hallowed corner of the edifice. Monolithic pillars stretch up almost endlessly, supporting the intricately ordained roof and walls. The interior of the building is a work of art. Everything was sculpted and carved with tedious painstaking precision.

The cathedral also has great historical significance. The Space Window is a stained-glass depiction of the great beyond in all its immensity, commemorating Apollo 11’s landing on the moon. Within the shards of glass is a 7.18-gram lunar rock from the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility.

The great Martin Luther King, Jr. did his final sermon from the pulpit here on the Sunday before he was assassinated. There is a sculpture of him along with many others who influenced society benevolently. Additionally, the funeral service of almost every U.S. President has taken place within the cathedral’s spacious halls.

3101 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, DC 20016

6. St. Nicholas Primatial Cathedral of the Orthodox Church in America

3500 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007

St. Nicholas Cathedral stands out from its contemporaries in many ways. It is an Orthodox Church in America building designed in a Russian style of architecture. Passing sightseers can see it standing imperiously on Massachusetts Avenue NW, emanating large-scale power and beautiful simplicity of design.

The exterior of the church was made to resemble the St. Demetrius Cathedral of Vladimir, Russia. The structure is comprised of a series of rounded arches and windows and domes, all a silvery-gray hue, making the building look almost metallic at a distance.

The parish was founded in 1930 and has relocated a few times, moving periodically from differing houses of worship in the early years. St. Nicholas Cathedral on Massachusetts Avenue NW was officially completed in 1962, but was in use by a Russian Orthodox congregation as early as 1954, when parishioners used to worship and hold mass in the substructure basement area of the building. The contemporary congregation has been an independent, American church since 1970.

The interior of the cathedral is painted with an elaborate series of religious iconography. Colorful murals envelop and encompass every nook and curvaceous partition, slanting gracefully around the immense inner chambers and contemplative areas of worship. Saints, angels, religious figures, scenes from the Bible, and more were professionally painted by a team of Russian iconographers from Moscow and were led by accomplished artist Alexander Maskalionov. The detailed job of iconography commenced in 1991 and was completed three years later. The church is still a wondrous sight to behold.

This item has been updated to reflect the independence of the church.

3500 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20007

7. Islamic Center of Washington, D.C.

2551 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008
The facade of a mosque seen from below. At the top is a tower. Shutterstock

The Islamic Center is located on Massachusetts Avenue NW, the bustling D.C. street lined with embassies, often referred to as Embassy Row. Architect Mario Rossi designed the mosque in the Neo-Mamluk style of architecture made popular in 15th century Egypt. He was also behind the construction of similar edifices in Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt.

This cultural center is a beautiful one and has a graceful aesthetic. The exterior walls are ornately fashioned, and the center of the mosque showcases a brilliant spire that reaches towards the sky. The building is surrounded by the flags of Islamic countries spanning the globe, and many of the interior furnishings are international gifts from afar. The carpets were a gift from the Shah of Iran, the chandelier hails from Egypt, and the wall tiles were a present from Turkey. 

Upon its opening in 1957, the Islamic Center of Washington was the biggest mosque in the Western Hemisphere. It has an impressive history that can be traced all the way back to an inkling of an idea, the amorphous thought which found shape in 1944. At this time, the United States was entangled in the arduous throes of World War II. The building of religious edifices wasn’t on the forefront of public consciousness. Additionally, the separation of church and state meant that no government funds would be allotted to the building of houses of worship. 

In 1944, when Turkish ambassador Münir Ertugün passed away, the District was devoid of a mosque to hold his funeral. This became a concern for Islamic diplomats, and in 1948 Egyptian Ambassador Kamil Abdel Rahim decided to embark on a fundraising campaign to gather the funds necessary for the building of a great mosque. He toiled many hours, traversing high seas and visiting a multitude of Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Here, he solicited monetary support for the immense project with the hearty backing of the Washington diplomatic community.

The mosque was completed in 1954 and was dedicated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1957. An estimated 6,000 people attend prayer services at the mosque each Friday.    

2551 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008

8. Chapel in Oak Hill Cemetery

3001 R St NW, Washington, DC 20007

Georgetown’s Oak Hill Cemetery is a 22-acre expanse speckled with historical Victorian-style monuments and tombstones. Peruse the highest ridge of the garden cemetery, and you are sure to stumble upon the Oak Hill Cemetery Chapel, which is often called a miniature gem of Gothic architecture. The beautifully constructed chapel is much smaller than many houses of worship in D.C., but that takes nothing away from its splendor. 

Completed in 1850, this single-story building is only 23 feet in height and 41 feet in length. Designed by James Renwick, Jr., the chapel is decorated with lancet stained-glass windows, a high and steep sloping roof, and an ornate rose window hovering angelically above the building’s entrance. The interior walls are supported by old-style wall buttresses, a common accoutrement in the architecture of bygone days.

The tiny yet powerful church was constructed of gneiss from the Potomac River, some sandstone, and wood. The mouth of the building, it’s entrance, is a large painted door protected by a wrought iron gate. Within, visitors might notice a northwest cornerstone with the historic date of the chapel’s construction, an etching inscribed nearly 170 years ago.      

3001 R St NW
Washington, DC 20007

9. Sixth & I Historic Synagogue

600 I St NW, Washington, DC 20001
The top of a synagogue, showing a dome and the Star of David. The Washington Post via Getty Im

While the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue opened in 1908, it’s historical roots are embedded much deeper in the past. The founding of this tabernacle started all the way back in 1876, with another synagogue, on the corner of 6th and G street NW. Ulysses S. Grant was in attendance at its dedication, making him the first sitting U.S. President to attend a synagogue service. 

Later, the congregation expanded and the heads of Adas decided to relocate. In 1908, after three years of construction, a new synagogue was dedicated on the corner of Sixth and I streets NW. Decades passed here, and the number of congregants grew and grew. They decided to move once again. The congregation relocated to the Cleveland Park area where they still worship today. The previous building on Sixth and I streets NW remains as a cultural center, a living historical monument, and a non-denominational, non-traditional Jewish synagogue. 

The original location was designed by architect Louis Levi who was heavily influenced by the Moorish, Romanesque, and Byzantine revival styles. The house of worship is quite impressive and displays two huge overarching doorways, rounded stained glassed windows, and three ornate Byzantine-looking domes on its roof. Inside, the synagogue is spacious and imbued with a historical feel, transporting one into the past and instilling a sense of reverence to the unsuspecting visitor.  

600 I St NW
Washington, DC 20001

10. St. Patrick's Catholic Church

619 10th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
A stone church seen from across the street. The church has an English style and includes a Rose window.

Saint Patrick’s was founded in 1794, making it the oldest parish in the Federal City, which is what Washington, D.C., was known as back then. At this time, many Irish immigrants were living in D.C. and working on the construction of federal buildings. The church was meant to provide a place of refuge and worship for such Irish immigrants.

It is named after the patron saint and Apostle of Ireland, St. Patrick. The third iteration, of which this blurb is directed, was designed by Laurence O’Connor and was dedicated in 1884.

O’Connor designed the church in the Victorian Gothic Revival style popular at the time, giving it an old world aesthetic that is both looming and historical. The exterior is constructed of blue-gray gneiss, trimmed with sandstone and polished crimson-gray granite. Both the exterior and the interior of the edifice are ornamented with tediously and beautifully crafted stained-glass windows, depicting scenes from the Bible as well as portraying vignettes of Saint Patrick’s life.

Within the church, onlookers will likely notice one of the most celebrated religious organs in Washington, D.C., consisting of 2,600 individual pipes, three manual keyboards, 44 ranks, and 34 stops. Visitors will also enjoy a wide array of sculptures fashioned after religious figures, such as St. Thomas More, St. Anthony of Padua, and St. Patrick. 

619 10th St NW
Washington, DC 20001