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Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Ranked #15 of 443 things to do in Washington DC
Certificate of Excellence
Portland, Maine
Level Contributor
5 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“Not that impressed”
Reviewed August 20, 2014

I am a very active, practicing Catholic who has travelled extensively in Europe and lived many years in Rome. I find the shrine big but the art not great. The figures tend to be stiff and the decor gaudy. The art on the ceiling over the nave looks like paint by numbers. If big impresses you, you will love it. If you like holy card art you will love it. If you loved Notre Dame in Paris, or any of the major basilicas in Rome, or any cathedral in Spain or Italy or France, you might be disappointed. I would hate to think this is the best we can do in religious art in America today.

Visited August 2014
1 Thank Mjhjcl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Houston, Texas
Level Contributor
447 reviews
336 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 287 helpful votes
“Impressive, extensive church”
Reviewed August 20, 2014

A beautiful and majestic basilica located near the Catholic University of America, this massive Catholic church serves the shrine for the whole nation and was the first U.S. cathedral. Conveniently located near the Brookland/CUA red line subway station, the Basilica is also easy to reach. Forget breakfast, because the church also has a cafeteria. You might as well eat for a good cause!

The Basilica has perhaps the largest and the most extensive underground church crypt I have been to in the US, which contains not only the remains of significant U.S. Catholic figures but also relics such as the seat that the Pope used when he was visiting this church.

However, the highlight was the main church itself. As you enter, you will see tall, impressive marble columns with a large Christ mural in the center above the altar. You will notice that unlike many Basilicas, the National Shrine's columns and walls outside the chapels are mostly devoid of any religious drawings so that you may focus solely on the magnitude and the majesty of the structure. That doesn't mean this church is lacking in impressive mosaic artworks! Perhaps what is more majestic than the basilica structure itself is the Christ in Majesty mural in the back, one of the largest mosaic of Jesus Christ utilizing more than 4000 shades of colors!

Unfortunately, this was my most uncomfortable church visit. The staff was very friendly and enthusiastic, but they were also somewhat forceful in imposing their beliefs especially after they realized that I'm not a Catholic. They do have the right to do so in their own church, but I thought it was unnecessary and unprecedented in my church-visiting experience.

Experience the holy grandeur for yourself if you are in the DC area! I highly recommend asking for a free audio tour to help you explore and understand the interesting elements throughout this majestic basilica!

Visited August 2014
1 Thank Jay Y
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Columbus, Ohio
Level Contributor
23 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
“Beautiful way to honor our Lady”
Reviewed August 19, 2014

I liked everything! It was really neat especially the cafeteria, the bookstores, the Upper Church and the Crypt Church. The murals are beautiful.

Visited August 2014
Thank arizonasaguaro
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Orchard Park, New York
Level Contributor
197 reviews
51 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 108 helpful votes
“Very awesome church, attend a service!”
Reviewed August 17, 2014

Spent 4 days in DC, not much into history myself, but I really enjoy cool churches so this was probably the highlight of DC for me. Took the metro, and got off with maybe one block to walk. The surrounding neighborhood does not look so great, but the church is on a college campus and police presence was there, it felt safe. Attending weekday 12:15 mass in the basement, and really enjoyed it, then walked the church upstairs afterward. This is worth going to see!

Visited August 2014
Thank snowfall1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Level Contributor
9 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
Reviewed August 16, 2014

Amazing, a must see. The architecture and art is beautiful to walk around at your leisure to view. You will be in awe. Also a bonus is a large free parking lot.

Visited August 2014
Thank Linda S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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