Henry Latrobe, along with President Thomas Jefferson, are the
first two American architects of international stature.
President Thomas Jefferson had admired the work of Latrobe in
Virginia and asked him to come to Washington D.C. to help create
something worthy of this young nation. In 1803, Latrobe started
with the south wing of the U.S. Capitol, and went on to complete
the entire complex, a monumental project commanding most of his
In 1805, Latrobe volunteered his architectural services to design
America’s first Cathedral, often called “the most
beautiful church in North America.“ It is considered his
in in Yorkshire, England, in 1764.
Studied at Moravian schools in Germany; toured Germany, France,
and Italy, where he became interested in architecture.
In England, became an engineer and then an architect.
In America 1796, commissioned to work on the Virginia State. Penitentiary,
Bank of Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia Waterworks, and the first
U.S. Naval Drydocks in Maryland.
Asked by President Jefferson to come to Washington in 1803 to
serve as the Surveyor of the Public Buildings for the U.S. Government.
Designed the south wing of the U.S. Capitol and asked to complete
the U.S. Capitol.
Credited with introducing America to the Gothic and Neoclassical
revival styles of architecture.
ARCHBISHOP JOHN CARROLL
in Maryland, Father Carroll came from an Irish Catholic family
who was fiercely patriotic and very loyal to their new country.
He began his ministry as a Jesuit in Europe. Returning to Maryland
in 1773, he began his pastoral work in the mission serving colonial
America. At that time, the Catholic Church in America was considered
missionary territory. After the American Revolution, Pope Pius
VI created the Diocese of Baltimore, which encompassed the 13
original colonies, and appointed him its first bishop.
Bishop Carroll, his brother Daniel and cousin, Charles Carroll
of Carrollton, were integral in advocating the provisions in the
U.S. Constitution protecting freedom of religion. Embracing the
optimism of the new republic, he chose the architecture of America’s
first cathedral to be a symbol of the Catholic commitment to these
in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, in 1735.
Ordained a Jesuit priest when he was 34. Educated in Europe, returned
to America as a missionary in 1773.
In 1784, appointed first ”Superior of the Mission of the
Thirteen United States“, and authorized to guide the infant
Church in this country.
Established Georgetown University; St. Mary’s Seminary,
Baltimore; Mount St. Mary’s College and Seminary, Emmitsburg,
In 1776, sent by the Continental Congress with Benjamin Franklin
and two others on an unsuccessful mission to Quebec to persuade
French Canada to join in the revolution.
In 1789, Pope Pius VI created the Diocese of Baltimore with Carroll
as its first bishop.
In 1804, became responsible for the territories in the Louisiana
In 1808, named the first archbishop in the United States.
In 1810, ordained in Baltimore the first Bishops of Philadelphia,
Boston and Bardstown.
His cousin, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, was the only Catholic
signer of the Declaration of Independence.
His brother, Daniel, was one of the only two Catholic signers
of the U.S. Constitution.
He died in December 1815, after serving 25 years as bishop and
CARDINAL JAMES GIBBONS
Cardinal Gibbons was a patriot who also recognized the needs of
the expanding Church, which included converts and immigrants.
His vision was that the United States was an ideal place for the
Church to carry out its mission. In Faith of Our Fathers, his
words echo his beliefs when he writes:
“From my heart, I say: America, with all thy faults, I love
Perhaps at this moment there is no nation on the face of the earth
where the Church is less trammeled, and where she has more liberty
to carry out her sublime destiny than in these United States.”
He felt that the Church as well as the country embraced similar
notions of liberty and justice. Although both face difficulties
in the changing times, they have the necessary tools to overcome
these problems. Thus, he worked for improved labor conditions,
the freedom for all Catholics to participate fully in the nation
as well as in other noble causes in the nineteenth century.
on July 23, 1834 in Baltimore. Baptized in the Baltimore Basilica.
Ordained a priest in the chapel of St. Mary’s Seminary in
Selected as secretary by Archbishop Spalding for his faith and
his diligence in doing the Lord's work .
Selected by Pope Pius IX to take on the apostolic responsibilities
of the first bishop to serve in North Carolina in 1868.
Just 34 years old, youngest bishop of the Catholic world at the
Embraced by the public, his rhetorical style and amiable presence
enabled him to express convictions in a delicate yet effective
Served as vicar apostolic of North Carolina.
Appointed to serve as bishop of Richmond in 1872.
Returned to Baltimore in May of 1877 as coadjutor archbishop.
Succeeded to the office of Archbishop of Baltimore, on the death
of Archbishop James Roosevelt Bayley in 1878.
Selected by Pope Leo XIII to preside over the Third Plenary Council
of Baltimore in 1884.
Archbishop Gibbons was made a cardinal priest in June of 1886.
large dome was originally a source of light, together with the
original windows of translucent glass. Twenty-four skylights
ringed the outer dome providing light for the whole building.
Light filtered indirectly through the oculus of the inner dome
creating what Latrobe termed ”lumiere mysterieuse”.
In 1904, the exterior dome was covered with gold leaf, which
lasted for 20 years; it was later replaced by copper. By 1946,
the deteriorating skylight frames and their heavy glass in the
outer dome were removed. This last major renovation tried to
replicate the natural light that once streamed into the drum
of the dome with artificial light. Thanks to the assistance
of the Getty Grant Program, the natural light of the 24 skylights
will grace the Basilica once more.
Basilica twin towers do not conform to Latrobe’s Design
#7 of 1808. These show small saucer shaped domes in their place.
Recent scholarship however suggest several clues that Latrobe
was indeed inclined toward the Byzantine finials. It is known
that Latrobe's son, who was fiercely protective of his father's
work, was responsible for finishing the towers between 1830 and
1838. In his writings, Latrobe considered all architectural elements
of the Roman Empire as part of the lexicon of western architecture.
Additionally, he considered the tower to have religious significance
in architecture. The spires of Christian churches, the minarets
of Islam or the onion domes of Eastern Orthodoxy can serve as
was not available to complete the portico at the Basilica’s
dedication in 1821. Latrobe’s son, John H. B. Latrobe submitted
plans for the portico’s foundation in 1841. It was not until
the 1860’s that Eben Faxon was chosen as the architect to
finally carry out the work for the portico entrance. This large
porch is 61 feet across by 25 feet deep and made of tan New Brunswick
freestone. The ten fluted columns are 35.5 feet high and crowned
by highly ornamented capitals admirably carved with a chisel.
A huge 19th-century lantern of wrought iron and brass and of Georgian
design is suspended above the west door.
1879, Baltimore architect Ephraim Baldwin added the northeast
sacristy. With the sanctuary still too small, Cardinal James Gibbons
again turned to Baldwin in 1890 (after the death of the John H.B.
Latrobe, the guardian of his father’s masterpiece) to extend
the head of the Latin cross cathedral. Latrobe’s easternmost
range of bays were replaced with a third domed crossing and the
new east wall was given a variation of Latrobe’s apse with
a bald or skylight dome. Below the extended sanctuary, a new formal
crypt area was outfitted in 1900 for the archbishops of Baltimore.
& Sexton’s Lodge
granite, marble and iron railing around the grounds of the Basilica
was designed by Robert Cary Long, Jr. and erected in 1841. Long
also designed the sexton’s lodge, built to the northwest
of the church.
tower bells, cast in France by Joseph Frerejean and installed
in the south tower on July 27, 1831, were a tribute to Archbishop
Ambrose Marechal by priests of the archdiocese. The larger bell
is 3,500 lbs. and is ornamented by six bands of tracery and two
medallions, one of the Crucifixion and one of the Madonna and
Child. The smaller one has three bands of tracery with medallions
of the Good Shepherd and of the Mother and Divine Infant.