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Melanie Renzulli

The Largest Roman Catholic Church in North America

By March 12, 2013

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Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC

No doubt about it, I'm caught up in all the hoopla surrounding the current papal conclave going on in Rome. So I thought I'd take this opportunity to write about the largest Roman Catholic church in the United States.

You may find this hard to believe (have faith!), but the largest Catholic church in North America is in Washington, DC. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is located in the northeast quadrant of DC and is adjacent to the campus of the Catholic University of America.

The dimensions of the Romanesque-Byzantine basilica are massive. According to the National Shrine's website, the basilica is 25 percent longer than St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City and its dome is more than twice the size of the central dome of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy. The Shrine, not the U.S. Capitol, is the tallest building in Washington, DC, and it attracts approximately one million visitors annually.

One other neat thing about the National Shrine is that it is among the top 10 largest churches in the world, a fact that is enshrined, as it were, with a marker on the floor of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.

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