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

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Cathedral of St. Matthew
the Apostle
2013 Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.JPG
Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle (Washington, D.C.) is located in Central 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; -77.04000Coordinates: 38°54′22″N 77°2′24″W / 38.90611°N 77.04000°W / 38.90611; -77.04000
Location1725 Rhode Island Avenue NW
Washington, D.C.
CountryUnited States
DenominationRoman Catholic Church
Founded1840, 182 years ago
DedicationSaint Matthew
Architect(s)C. Grant La Farge
StyleRenaissance Revival
Romanesque Revival
Length155 feet (47 m)
Width136 feet (41 m)
Height200 feet (61 m)
Number of domesOne
Dome height (outer)190 feet (58 m)
ArchbishopWilton Daniel Gregory
RectorMsgr. W. Ronald Jameson
St. Matthew's Cathedral and Rectory
Part ofDupont Circle Historic District (ID78003056)
NRHP reference No.74002173
Added to NRHPJanuary 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 of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. As St. Matthew's Cathedral and Rectory, it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974.[3]

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. It is seven blocks north and two blocks west of the White House.


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 by pastor Father William Matthews and parochial vicar Father John Philip Donelan.[4][5] The church was dedicated on November 1, 1840, though the structure had not yet been entirely completed.[4] Originally located at 15th and H Streets,[6] 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).[7] 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 at St. Matthew's was for Manuel L. Quezon, the president of the Philippines, who died August 1, 1944,[8] 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 and it was filled to capacity.[9]

The cathedral drew worldwide attention following the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. Richard, Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston and a Kennedy family friend, offered a recited (not sung) Pontifical Requiem Low Mass during the state funeral on Monday, November 25, 1963, which was followed by the procession to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia for the burial.

Commemoration of where President John F. Kennedy's Casket was Placed for His Requiem Mass.

Other notable events at the cathedral include a Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II during his 1979 visit to Washington, D.C.,[10] and the 1997 funeral of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.[11]

The cathedral was the site of a Lutheran funeral service for Chief Justice William Rehnquist on September 7, 2005.[12][13][14]

St. Matthew's is the location for one of the most famous Red Masses in the world.[15][16] 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.[17] Dwight Eisenhower became the first to attend as president in 1954; Harry Truman attended nine years earlier, but as vice president.[18]

In 2020, the cathedral hosted its first archdiocesan Easter Mass since the larger Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was dedicated in 1959. The Mass, televised and livestreamed by EWTN, was celebrated by archbishop Wilton Gregory with no members of the faithful present, because of COVID-19 restrictions.[citation needed]

Prior to the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States he, along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi[19] and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy attended Mass at the church.[20][21]

Cathedral interior


Near the entry of the St. Francis Chapel is a burial crypt with eight tombs intended for Washington's archbishops. Three former archbishops, Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle, William Cardinal Baum, and James Cardinal Hickey, are interred here.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About the Cathedral Parish | Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington". 1963-11-25. Retrieved 2017-03-27.
  2. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  3. ^ "St. Matthew's Cathedral And Rectory". National Park Service. Retrieved 2018-09-29.
  4. ^ a b Philibert, Helene; Philibert, Estelle; Philibert, Imogene (1940). Saint Matthew's of Washington. Baltimore: A. Hoen & Co. pp. 14–15.
  5. ^ Conley, Rev. Rory T. (2000). The Truth in Charity: A History of The Archdiocese of Washington. France: Editions du Signe. pp. 38–39. ISBN 2746802295.
  6. ^ Philibert, Helene (1940). St. Matthew's of Washington, 1840-1940. Baltimore: Press of A. Hoen & Co. p. 16.
  7. ^ "About Us: Online tour". Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. Retrieved 2014-03-05.
  8. ^ "QUEZON, Manuel L. | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives". Retrieved 2018-09-29.
  9. ^ "Sen. McCarthy eulogized in solemn funeral Mass". Florence Times. Alabama. Associated Press. May 6, 1957. p. 1.
  10. ^ Cornell, George (October 6, 1979). "Pope brings message of peace and hope to thousands in nation's capital". Lewiston Daily Journal. Maine. Associated Press. p. 1.
  11. ^ "President eulogizes Brennan as a 'legal giant'". The Day. New London, Connecticut. Associated Press. July 30, 1997.
  12. ^ Zapor, Patricia (September 6, 2005). "Lutheran's funeral in Catholic cathedral unusual, but permitted". Catholic News Service. Archived from the original on September 8, 2005. Retrieved 2011-03-05.
  13. ^ "Mourners line up for Rehnquist". Reading Eagle. Pennsylvania. Associated Press. September 7, 2005. p. A6.
  14. ^ "Rehnquist service full of music". Reading Eagle. Pennsylvania. September 8, 2005. p. 1.
  15. ^ "Ike attends traditional Washington legal mass". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. February 1, 1954. p. 2.
  16. ^ "President attends annual Red Mass". Toledo Blade. Ohio. Associated Press. February 1, 1965. p. 3.
  17. ^ "The Red Mass". John Carroll Society. Archived from the original on 2013-04-07. Retrieved 2014-03-05.
  18. ^ "Ike attends Catholic Mass". St. Petersburg Times. Florida. Associated Press. February 1, 1954. p. 2.
  19. ^ Bowden, Ebony; Sheehy, Kate (2021-01-19). "McConnell, Pelosi, Schumer will join Biden at church before his inauguration". New York Post. Retrieved 2021-01-20.
  20. ^ "What is St. Matthew's, the church Biden will attend on Inauguration Day?". Religion News Service. 2021-01-19. Retrieved 2021-01-20.
  21. ^ "WATCH: Biden attends Inauguration Day church service with family, Pelosi, McConnell". PBS NewsHour. 2021-01-20. Retrieved 2021-01-20.

Further reading[edit]

  • Philibert, Helene, Philibert, Estelle, Philibert, Imogene (1940). Saint Matthew's of Washington. Baltimore, MD: A. Hoen & Co.

External links[edit]