Peace Cross

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Peace Cross
World War I Memorial, Bladensburg, Maryland 003.JPG
Peace Cross is located in Maryland
Peace Cross
Peace Cross is located in the United States
Peace Cross
LocationAnnapolis Rd. & Baltimore Ave., Bladensburg, Maryland
Coordinates38°56′22″N 76°56′27″W / 38.93944°N 76.94083°W / 38.93944; -76.94083Coordinates: 38°56′22″N 76°56′27″W / 38.93944°N 76.94083°W / 38.93944; -76.94083
Arealess than one acre
ArchitectEarley, John J.
NRHP reference No.15000572[1]
Added to NRHPSeptember 8, 2015

The Bladensburg World War I Memorial, more commonly referred to as the Peace Cross, is a World War I memorial, located in the three-way junction of Bladensburg Road, Baltimore Avenue, and Annapolis Road in Bladensburg, Maryland. It is a large cross, 40 feet (12 m) in height, made of tan concrete with exposed pink granite aggregate. The arms of the cross are supported by unadorned concrete arches. The base of the cross displays the words "valor," "endurance," "courage," and "devotion." It also includes a bronze tablet listing the names of 49 men from Prince George's County's who died during the war, along with a quote from Woodrow Wilson: "The right is more precious than peace. We shall fight for the things we have always carried nearest our hearts. To such a task we dedicate our lives."[2][3]


The American Legion commissioned the cross to commemorate the 49 servicemen that died overseas in World War I. The monument was designed by Washington, D.C. architect and artist John Joseph Earley, and was erected between 1919 and 1925.[2][4] The Latin cross design was selected as it mirrored the cross structures used on the gravesites of soldiers buried after the war in Europe and other locations. United States Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels spoke at the monument's groundbreaking ceremony in September 1919, with a formal dedication ceremony in July 1925.[4] The name "Peace Cross" was first used in the Washington,D.C., area in 1898 for a twenty-foot-tall cross erected on the grounds of Washington National Cathedral to mark the end of the Spanish–American War.[5][6]

The cross was originally built on private lands, but the lands were turned over to the state's Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in 1961. The Commission has since overseen maintenance of the memorial. The land has been heavily developed over the years, with a divided highway passing by it and the memorial on its median. The Commission installed nighttime illumination to avoid this becoming a safety hazard. Additional, more war memorial structures have been erected in the same general area, creating the Veterans Memorial Park.[7]

The memorial was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.[1]

Legal challenge[edit]

In October 2017, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that publicly funded maintenance of the cross was unconstitutional because it "excessively entangles the government in religion because the cross is the core symbol of Christianity and breaches the wall separating church and state."[3][8][4]

On June 20, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of The American Legion v. American Humanist Association, ruled in favor of keeping the Peace Cross on public land, by the reason that it does not violate the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution.[9]

Further reading[edit]

  • American Humanist Association, Steven Lowe,. Fred Edwords, and Bishop McNeill v. Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission (PDF) (Report). United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. No. 15-2597. Retrieved October 24, 2017.
  • SCOTUS Opinion

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "National Register of Historic Places Listings". Weekly List of Actions Taken on Properties: 9/08/15 through 9/11/15. National Park Service. September 18, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Peace Cross, Prince George's County, Inventory No.: PG:69-16, at Maryland Historical Trust website
  3. ^ a b Marimow, Ann E. (October 18, 2017). "Towering cross-shaped monument on public land is unconstitutional, court rules". The Washington Post.
  4. ^ a b c Marimow, Ann E.; Ruane, Michael E. (September 21, 2018). "A World War I cross under siege". The Washington Post.
  5. ^ Bains, David R. (February 27, 2019). "Metro D.C.'s Other Peace Cross". Chasing Churches. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  6. ^ Satterlee, Henry Yates (1899). The peace cross book: Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, Washington. R.H. Russell. p. 22. The peace cross book washington cathedral.
  7. ^ de Vogue, Ariane (February 27, 2019). "Supreme Court suggests memorial cross does not violate separation of church and state". CNN. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  8. ^ Frej, Willa (October 19, 2017). "Cross-Shaped WWI Monument Declared Unconstitutional". HuffPost.
  9. ^ Barnes, Robert (June 20, 2019). "Supreme Court rules that Maryland 'Peace Cross' honoring military dead may remain on public land". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 20, 2019.