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 the church didn't have enough money to complete the portico by the dedication in 1821. Twenty years later, Latrobe's son, lawyer and inventor John H.B. Latrobe (who lived on Mulberry Street across from the Basilica) submitted plans for the portico's foundation but it wasn't until the 1860s that architect Eben Faxon carried out the work of completing the portico entrance. 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.
Watch our Five Minute Histories video on the basilica!