First Posted: July 25, 2012
Jan 20, 2020

Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington DC

Image: Copyright DupontCircleReflections.us

Image: Copyright DupontCircleReflections.us Image: Copyright DupontCircleReflections.us

Image: Copyright: DupontCircleReflections.us
Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, DC

The Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington DC, most commonly known as St. Matthew's Cathedral, is the seat of the Archbishop (currently Donald Cardinal Wuerl as of 2011) 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.

It is located 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 dedicated to the Apostle Matthew, who among other things is patron saint of civil servants, having himself been a tax collector.

St. Matthew's was originally established in 1840, 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 on June 2, 1895. It was finally dedicated in 1913. In 1939 the church was designated as a Cathedral when the Archdiocese of Washington was established.

The structure is Romanesque with Byzantine elements. Designed by architect C. Grant La Farge, it is shaped like a Latin cross and seats about 950 persons. The interior is richly decorated in marble and semiprecious stones, notably a 35-foot mosaic of Matthew created by Edwin Howland Blashfield. Both structural and decorative features underwent extensive restoration by EverGreene Architectural Arts, starting in 2000 and ending September 21, 2003, the Feast day of St. Matthew.

The first notable funeral Mass offered there was for Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon, who died on August 1, 1944, and was given a state funeral at Arlington Cemetery. In 1957 a Solemn Requiem Mass was offered there at the occasion of the funeral of Joseph McCarthy; the liturgy was attended by 70 senators and hundreds of clergymen. The cathedral drew world attention on November 25, 1963, when a recited (not sung) Pontifical Requiem Low Mass was offered by Richard Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston and a Kennedy family friend, during the state funeral of President John F. Kennedy. Other notable events have been held at the cathedral, including a Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II during his 1979 visit to Washington, DC. The funeral of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., was held there in 1997.

It also hosted a Lutheran funeral service for the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist on September 7, 2005.

The cathedral is officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The cathedral is also the location for one of the most famous Red Masses in the world. Each year on the day before the beginning of the term of the Supreme Court of the United States, 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.

In the passageway located between the main sanctuary and the St Francis Chapel is a burial chamber with eight tombs intended for Washington, DC's archbishops. There are currently two former archbishops buried in this anteroom: Patrick Cardinal O'Boyle and James Cardinal Hickey.

For More Information:

Red Mass
Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle
Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle/Sanctuary
Photo Gallery by Catholic Photographer/St. Matthew's

Index: Historical Buildings