Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle (Washington, D.C.)

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Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle
Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle (Washington, D.C.) is located in Washington, D.C.
Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle (Washington, D.C.)
38°54′22″N 77°2′24″W / 38.90611°N 77.04000°W / 38.90611; -77.04000
Location 1725-1739 Rhode Island Avenue NW
Washington, D.C.
Country United States
Denomination Roman Catholic Church
Founded 1840
Architect(s) C. Grant La Farge
Style Renaissance Revival
Romanesque Revival
Completed 1913
Capacity 1,000 sitting[1]
Length 155 feet (47 m)
Width 136 feet (41 m)
Height 200 feet (61 m)
Number of domes One
Dome height (outer) 190 feet (58 m)
Archdiocese Archdiocese of Washington
Archbishop Cardinal Donald Wuerl
Rector Msgr. W. Ronald Jameson
St. Matthew's Cathedral and Rectory
NRHP Reference # 74002173
Added to NRHP January 24, 1974[2]

The Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington D.C., most commonly known as St. Matthew's Cathedral, is the seat of the Archbishop (currently Donald Cardinal Wuerl) of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. As St. Matthew's Cathedral and Rectory, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

The cathedral is in downtown Washington at 1725 Rhode Island Avenue NW between Connecticut Avenue and 17th Street. The closest Metrorail station is Farragut North, on the Red Line.

St. Matthew's is dedicated to the Apostle Matthew, who among other things is patron saint of civil servants, having himself been a tax collector. It was established in 1840 as the fourth Catholic parish in the District of Columbia. Originally located at 15th and H Streets, construction of the current church began in 1893, with the first Mass being celebrated June 2, 1895. Construction continued until 1913 when the church was dedicated. In 1939, it became the cathedral for the newly established Archdiocese of Washington.

The structure is constructed of red brick with sandstone and terra cotta trim in the Romanesque Revival style with Byzantine elements. Designed by architect C. Grant La Farge, it is in the shape of a Latin cross measuring 155 ft × 136 ft (47 m × 41 m) and seats about 1,200 persons. The interior is richly decorated in marble and semiprecious stones, notably a 35 ft (11 m) mosaic of Matthew behind the main altar by Edwin Blashfield. The cathedral is capped by an octagonal dome that extends 190 ft (58 m) above the nave and is capped by a cupola and crucifix that brings the total height to 200 ft (61 m).[3] Both structural and decorative elements underwent extensive restoration between 2000 and September 21, 2003, the Feast day of St. Matthew.

Historic events[edit]


The first notable funeral Mass offered there was for Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon, who died August 1, 1944, and was interred at Arlington National Cemetery until the end of World War II. In 1957, a Solemn Requiem Mass was offered at the cathedral for the funeral of Senator Joseph McCarthy; the liturgy was attended by 70 senators and hundreds of clergymen.

The cathedral drew world attention on November 25, 1963, when Richard Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston and a Kennedy family friend, offered a recited (not sung) Pontifical Requiem Low Mass during the state funeral of President John F. Kennedy.[4]

Other notable events at the cathedral include a Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II during his 1979 visit to Washington, D.C. and the 1997 funeral of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.

The cathedral was the site of a Lutheran funeral service for Chief Justice William Rehnquist on September 7, 2005.[5]

St. Matthew's is the location for one of the most famous Red Masses in the world. Each year on the day before the term of the Supreme Court of the United States begins, Mass is celebrated to request guidance from the Holy Spirit for the legal profession. Owing to the Cathedral's location in the nation's capital, the Justices of the Supreme Court, members of Congress and the Cabinet, and many other dignitaries (including, at times, the President of the United States) attend the Mass.[6]

Cathedral interior


Near the entry of the St. Francis Chapel is a burial crypt with eight tombs intended for Washington’s archbishops. Two former archbishops, Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle and James Cardinal Hickey, are interred here. Cardinal William Baum, a former archbishop of Washington, died on July 23, 2015 and is to be buried in that crypt.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Staff (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  3. ^ "About Us: Online tour". Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. Retrieved 2014-03-05. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Zapor, Patricia (September 6, 2005). "Lutheran's funeral in Catholic cathedral unusual, but permitted". Catholic News Service. Retrieved 2011-03-05. 
  6. ^ "The Red Mass". John Carroll Society. Retrieved 2014-03-05. 

External links[edit]