Basilica of the Assumption

Built primarily between 1806 and 1821, the Baltimore Basilica was the first Cathedral erected in the United States. Bishop John Carroll, America's first bishop and a cousin of Charles Carroll of Declaration of Independence signing fame, led the effort to build a cathedral in Baltimore based on "American" principles of architecture (read: not European and especially not Gothic). Bishop Carroll was lucky to connect with young architect named Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who volunteered his architectural services for the new cathedral and would later achieve the moniker "Father of American Architecture."

With inspiration from the newly completed skylight in the U.S. Capitol following the vision of Thomas Jefferson, Latrobe designed what many consider to be one of the finest examples of nineteenth century architecture in the world. Latrobe and Carroll were able to complete much of the architectural original plans, but it wasn't until after the Civil War that Latrobe's son, architect John Latrobe (who lived on Mulberry Street across from the Basilica) completed the portico over the main entrance. John Latrobe continued to work on the building throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

This internationally significant building has played a central role in the history of Baltimore and the Catholic Church. Along the way, it has gained recognition as a Minor Basilica (1937), national historic landmark (1972), Baltimore City historic landmark (1975), and a national shrine (1993). Most recently, the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Basilica of the Assumption Historic Trust, and John G. Waite Associates Architects oversaw a major restoration and rehabilitation project covering nearly every square inch of the building, both inside and out. The work included the reintroduction of clear lights in the nave, restoration of the skylight, and the creation of a chapel in the undercroft.

Images

Basilica of the Assumption (1936)

Basilica of the Assumption (1936)

View from W. Mulberry Street of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Baltimore on Cathedral Street. | Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey, HABS MD,4-BALT,41--1. | Creator: E. H. Pickering View File Details Page

Interior, Basilica of the Assumption (1958)

Interior, Basilica of the Assumption (1958)

Interior view facing the chancel in the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Baltimore. | Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey, HABS MD,4-BALT,41--2. | Creator: Lanny Miyamoto View File Details Page

Detail, Basilica of the Assumption (1958)

Detail, Basilica of the Assumption (1958)

View from inside the chancel showing the Archbishop's throne, side balcony and part of the organ in the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Baltimore. | Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey, HABS MD,4-BALT,41--4. | Creator: Lanny Miyamoto View File Details Page

Baltimore Cathedral (c. 1902)

Baltimore Cathedral (c. 1902)

View from W. Mulberry and Cathedral Streets of the Baltimore Cathedral. | Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-D4-14266 <P&P> [P&P]. | Creator: William Henry Jackson (1843-1942) View File Details Page

Detail, Basilica of the Assumption (1995)

Detail, Basilica of the Assumption (1995)

The tabernacle on the main altar of the Basilica of the Assumption. | Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Carol M. Highsmith Archive, LC-HS503- 2175 (ONLINE) [P&P]. | Creator: Carol M. Highsmith View File Details Page

Detail, Basilica of the Assumption

Detail, Basilica of the Assumption

View of tomb located in the Baltimore Basilica of Bishop John Carroll, first bishop in the U.S. | Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Carol M. Highsmith Archive, LC-HS503- 2176 (ONLINE) [P&P]. | Creator: Carol M. Highsmith View File Details Page

Pope John Paul II, Baltimore Basilica (1995)

Pope John Paul II, Baltimore Basilica (1995)

Pope John Paul II during his 1995 visit to the Baltimore Basilica. | Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Carol M. Highsmith Archive, LC-HS503- 4901 (ONLINE) [P&P]. | Creator: Carol M. Highsmith View File Details Page

Steeple and dome,  Basilica of the Assumption (c. 1995)

Steeple and dome, Basilica of the Assumption (c. 1995)

View of the steeple and dome of the Baltimore Basilica. | Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Carol M. Highsmith Archive, LC-HS503- 2221 (ONLINE) [P&P]. | Creator: Carol M. Highsmith View File Details Page

Basilica of the Assumption (c. 1995)

Basilica of the Assumption (c. 1995)

Exterior view of the Baltimore Basilica | Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Carol M. Highsmith Archive, LC-HS503- 2222 (ONLINE) [P&P]. | Creator: Carol M. Highsmith View File Details Page

Sanctuary, Basilica of the Assumption (c. 1995)

Sanctuary, Basilica of the Assumption (c. 1995)

Interior view of the Baltimore Basilica | Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Carol M. Highsmith Archive, LC-HS503- 2225 (ONLINE) [P&P]. | Creator: Carol M. Highsmith View File Details Page

Street Address:

409 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, MD 21201 [map]

Cite this Page:

Johns Hopkins, “Basilica of the Assumption,” Explore Baltimore Heritage, accessed June 26, 2017, http://explore.baltimoreheritage.org/items/show/24.
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