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People take spiritual trips in Washington, DC for a variety of reasons: educational, spiritual, pilgrimage. When it comes to deepening knowledge, spiritual trips allow you to explore mosques, temples, synagogues, and churches. You can learn about the history of the buildings, of the communities that worship there. and you can also go into retreat mode if you’re looking for something beyond just educational.
Overall, spiritual trips can offer several things for your participants: a chance to reconnect with what’s most important, an opportunity to uncover more about their spiritual roots, or time to serve others and build community.
Washington, D.C. offers a smorgasbord of spiritual landmarks, given its history and location as the capital of the United States.
The Washington National Cathedral has a long and rich history. L’Enfant’s original plans for Washington D.C., from 1792, included a site for a “great church for national purposes.” In 1891, Episcopalian leaders began to work toward planning an Episcopalian Cathedral, and in 1893, Congress granted them a charter. Construction began in 1907 and was declared complete in 1990, after more than 80 years. Built in the Neo-Gothic style, it boasts over 100 gargoyles and 215 stained glass windows. Construction cost $65 million and came from private funders. Fun facts: there is a sculpture of Darth Vader on the cathedral and the Space Window has actual lunar rock in it.
Synagogue at 6th and I is one of the oldest synagogues in D.C., and differs greatly from most synagogues: it is non-denominational and non-membership. The building was constructed and dedicated in 1908 by the Adas Israel Congregation. This community sold the synagogue in 1951 to Turner Memorial A.M.E, who renovated some of the interior and used the building until 2002, when they put it up for sale. The building was purchased by a group of Jewish developers and philanthropists who in turn, restored the building and made it into its current day cultural center and synagogue. In 2004 the building was rededicated as the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue. They host multiple cultural events and Shabbat services that are open to all.
Designed by Mario Rossi, an Italian architect, the Islamic Center of Washington opened in 1957 when President Eisenhower dedicated the mosque. It was the first of its kind (major congregational mosque) in the United States. One unique fact about this mosque is that items inside were donated by mosques from around the world: the Persian rugs are from Iran, the tiles are from Turkey, the chandelier from Egypt. Daily, the mosque is open from 30 minutes before the first prayer in the morning, until one hour after the final morning prayer. At that time, the mosque is closed until normal business hours, which begin at 10 a.m.
The Basilica, as its known locally, is also referred to as America’s Catholic Church; it is the largest Catholic Church in North America. The foundation stone was laid in 1920, and the construction was completed in 2017, with the dedication of the Trinity Dome mosaic. The basilica is unique, in that it does not have its own parish community, nor is it, as a cathedral, the seat of the bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington. The basilica has 81 unique chapels, a crypt church, and an upper church. It’s possible to arrange tours for large groups: they last just under an hour, and can accommodate anywhere from 15 to 150 people.
Friends Meeting of Washington is located near Dupont Circle, in the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington, D.C., in a historic building, established in 1930. The stone meeting house was funded by a friend of President Herbert Hoover. Surrounding the meeting house, are lovely gardens, enclosed by a wrought iron fence. The main meeting room is large, and can house 300 people. President Hoover and his wife both worshipped at the building. The campus also includes Quaker House, an additional building that was purchased on the Decauter Place side. An interesting fact about the building is that some of the wooden beams were repurposed from the White House.