Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 400 Michigan Ave NE, Washington, Zvezno okrožje Kolumbija, Združene države Amerike

Website of the Sanctuary

+1 202 526 8300

Open 365 Days Year: 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Roman Catholic church in the United States and North America, and is one of the ten largest churches in the world. Visited by Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI, Saint John Paul II, and Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, among others, the Basilica, though distinctly American, rivals the great sanctuaries of Europe and the world.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

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The History of Pilgrimage

The practice of pilgrimage is rooted in Judaic tradition and the journey to Jerusalem. In the early days of Christianity, the faithful continued this tradition, eagerly journeying to the Holy Land to visit and pray at those places associated with the life of Christ.

During the sixth century, the pilgrimage became a penitential exercise. At the beginning of the tenth century, it assumed the character and form of tourism. In time, pilgrimages became acts of religious devotion that included not only penitential themes, but also those of intercession and gratitude. Shrines dedicated to the Blessed Mother were the major pilgrimage sites and remain so today.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – A Pilgrimage Church

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is designated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a pilgrimage church. It is also the preeminent Marian Shrine of the United States.

With over 70 chapels and oratories that relate to the Blessed Mother and peoples from countries around the world, one can virtually make a pilgrimage to many of the great Marian shrines of the world and receive their same graces and indulgences by visiting the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Historic Highlights

  • In 1847, at the petition of the bishops of the United States, Pope Pius IX named the Blessed Virgin Mary patroness of the United States under the title of the Immaculate Conception.
  • In 1913, Pope Pius X approved plans for the building of a national shrine in the United States, and made a personal contribution for its construction.
  • The cornerstone of the National Shrine was laid in 1920.
  • The first Mass was held on Easter Sunday 1924.
  • In 1926, the Crypt Church was completed.
  • The remainder of the Crypt level was completed in 1931.
  • The Depression and World War II halted construction of the Shrine’s Great Upper Church superstructure.
  • With the end of World War II and the prosperity of the post war years, construction resumed in the Marian Year of 1954.
  • The superstructure or the Great Upper Church was completed in 1959. The National Shrine was dedicated on November 20, 1959.
  • Embellishment and ornamentation of the interior of the National Shrine has continued since.
  • On October 7, 1979, Pope John Paul II became the first reigning Pope to visit the National Shrine. In the Great Upper Church, he proclaimed:

“This Shrine speaks to us with the voice of all America, with the voice of all the sons and daughters of America, who have come here from the various countries of the Old World. When they came, they brought with them in their hearts the same love for the Mother of God that was characteristic of their ancestors and of themselves in their native lands. These people, speaking different languages, coming from different backgrounds of history and traditions in their own countries, came together around the heart of a Mother they all had in common. While their faith in Christ made all of them aware of being one People of God, this awareness became all the more vivid through the presence of the Mother in the work of Christ and the Church.”

  • In 1990, Pope John Paul II elevated the National Shrine to the status of a minor basilica, bestowing this papal honor for its historical importance, dignity and significance as a center of worship and devotion and as an expression of a special union with the Holy Father.
  • On Wednesday, April 16, 2008, the first day of his Apostolic Journey to the United States, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI visited the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to celebrate Solemn Vespers and meet with the Bishops of the United States.
  • In his address to the Bishops in the Crypt Church of the Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI exclaimed,

“Dear Brother Bishops, it gives me great joy to greet you today at the start of my visit to this country…in this Basilica dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a shrine of special significance to American Catholics, right in the heart of your capital city. Gathered in prayer with Mary, Mother of Jesus, we lovingly commend to our heavenly Father the people of God in every part of the United States…I commend the Church in your country most particularly to the maternal care and intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States. May she who carried within her womb the hope of all nations intercede for the people of this country, so that all may be made new in Jesus Christ her Son. To all of you, and to your clergy, religious and lay faithful, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Risen Lord.”

  • Prior to his departure Pope Benedict XVI bestowed “a Golden Rose for Our Mother Mary” upon the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception as a sign of his reverence, esteem and paternal affection. The Golden Rose is an honor dating back to the eleventh century and its conferral is rare and considered a great privilege.

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The History of Pilgrimage

The practice of pilgrimage is rooted in Judaic tradition and the journey to Jerusalem. In the early days of Christianity, the faithful continued this tradition, eagerly journeying to the Holy Land to visit and pray at those places associated with the life of Christ.
During the sixth century, the pilgrimage became a penitential exercise. At the beginning of the tenth century, it assumed the character and form of tourism. In time, pilgrimages became acts of religious devotion that included not only penitential themes, but also those of intercession and gratitude. Shrines dedicated to the Blessed Mother were the major pilgrimage sites and remain so today.

The Basilica – A Pilgrimage Church

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is designated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a pilgrimage church. It is also the preeminent Marian Shrine of the United States. With over 70 chapels and oratories that relate to the Blessed Mother and peoples from countries around the world, one can virtually make a pilgrimage to many of the great Marian shrines of the world and receive their same graces and indulgences by visiting the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Pilgrimages at the Basilica

Annually, the Basilica welcomes thousands of individual pilgrims as well as scores of diocesan, ethnic and group pilgrimages of all sizes throughout the year.
As in the devotional tradition of centuries past, pilgrims to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception may participate in the Sacrament of Penance as well as the celebration of Mass and special Marian devotions.
Pilgrims may also take guided tours of the Basilica, find religious items and books in our Gift Shop and Book Store, and frequently dine with us in our Cafeteria.

Mass – weekdays

  • 7:00 a.m.
  • 7:30 a.m.
  • 8:00 a.m.
  • 8:30 a.m.
  • 12:10 p.m.
  • 5:15 p.m.

Mass – saturdays

  • 7:00 a.m.
  • 7:30 a.m.
  • 8:00 a.m.
  • 8:30 a.m.
  • 12:10 p.m.
  • 5:15 p.m.

Mass – sundays 

  • 7:30 a.m.
  • 9:00 a.m.
  • 10:30 a.m.
  • 12:00 noon (Choir)
  • 1:30 p.m. (en español)
  • 4:30 p.m.

Sunday Confessions:

  • 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon
  • 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. (en español)
  • 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Daily Confessions (Monday – Saturday):

  • 7:45 a.m. – 8:15 a.m.
  • 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon
  • 3:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
  • Monday – Friday: 11:45 am & 4:45 pm – Crypt Church
  • Saturday: 11:45 am – Crypt Church, 4:45 pm – Great Upper Church
  • Sunday: 1:10 pm – Crypt Church
  • Monday through Thursday: 9:00 am – 12:00 noon – Crypt Church
  • Each Friday: 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm – Crypt ChurchFirst
  • Saturday: 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm – Crypt Church

Heritage

The United States has long and appropriately been referred to as the “great melting pot” as a place where people from many diverse lands and customs have come to dwell. The Basilica is a microcosm of this phenomenon, honoring devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary from around the world, which the generations of our immigrant population have sustained.

On October 7, 1979, Pope John Paul II, the first reigning Pope ever to visit the Basilica, proclaimed in the Great Upper Church:

“This Shrine speaks to us with the voice of all America, with the voice of all the sons and daughters of America, who have come here from the various countries of the Old World. When they came, they brought with them in their hearts the same love for the Mother of God that was characteristic of their ancestors and of themselves in their native lands. These people, speaking different languages, coming from different backgrounds of history and traditions in their own countries, came together around the heart of a Mother they all had in common. While their faith in Christ made all of them aware of being one People of God, this awareness became all the more vivid through the presence of the Mother in the work of Christ and the Church.”

The Basilica exemplifies the “catholicity” or universality of the Church, while echoing its unity and inclusiveness. The many chapels and oratories personify the cultural diversity of the United States and reverence that virtue which they have in common, faith.

Among the nationalities represented in the Basilica’s chapels are African, Austrian, Byzantine-Ruthenian, Chinese, Cuban, Czech, Filipino, French, German, Guamanian, Indian, Irish, Italian, Korean, Latin American, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Slovak, Slovenian, and Vietnamese.

Among the religious communities represented in the Basilica are the Augustinians, Carmelites, Claretians, Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, Montfort Missionaries, Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Redemptorists, Salesians, Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Providence, and Vincentians.

The largest Roman Catholic church in the United States

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Roman Catholic church in the United States and North America, and is one of the ten largest churches in the world.

Fulfilling its mission, the Basilica is a place of worship, pilgrimage, evangelization and reconciliation.

Designated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a National Sanctuary of Prayer and Pilgrimage, the Basilica is the nation’s preeminent Marian shrine, dedicated to the patroness of the United States—the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception. It is oftentimes affectionately referred to as America’s Catholic Church.

Visited by Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI, Saint John Paul II, and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, among others, the Basilica, though distinctly American, rivals the great sanctuaries of Europe and the world.

Byzantine-Romanesque in style, its massive, one-of-a-kind superstructure is home to over 70 chapels and oratories that relate to the peoples, cultures and traditions that are the fabric of the Catholic faith and the mosaic of our great nation. The Basilica also houses the largest collection of contemporary ecclesiastical art on earth.

Open 365 days a year, the Basilica is host to nearly one million visitors annually, attracting pilgrims and tourists alike from across the country and around the world.

The Basilica offers six Masses and five hours of Confessions daily, as well as Guided Tours, a Catholic Gift Shop, a Catholic Book Store, and a Cafeteria to accommodate its visitors.

In addition, Special Masses, Devotions, Pilgrimages and Concerts are held regularly throughout the year, and on Holy Days and Holidays.

Historic Highlights

In 1847, at the petition of the bishops of the United States, Pope Pius IX named the Blessed Virgin Mary patroness of the United States under the title of the Immaculate Conception.

In 1913, Pope Pius X approved plans for the building of a national shrine in the United States, and made a personal contribution for its construction.

The cornerstone of the National Shrine was laid in 1920.

The first Mass was held on Easter Sunday 1924.

1n 1926, the Crypt Church was completed.

The remainder of the Crypt level was completed in 1931.

The Depression and World War II halted construction of the Shrine’s Great Upper Church superstructure.

With the end of World War II and the prosperity of the post war years, construction resumed in the Marian Year of 1954.

The superstructure or the Great Upper Church was completed in 1959. The National Shrine was dedicated on November 20, 1959.

Embellishment and ornamentation of the interior of the National Shrine has continued since.

On October 7, 1979, Pope John Paul II became the first reigning Pope to visit the National Shrine. In the Great Upper Church, he proclaimed:

“This Shrine speaks to us with the voice of all America, with the voice of all the sons and daughters of America, who have come here from the various countries of the Old World. When they came, they brought with them in their hearts the same love for the Mother of God that was characteristic of their ancestors and of themselves in their native lands. These people, speaking different languages, coming from different backgrounds of history and traditions in their own countries, came together around the heart of a Mother they all had in common. While their faith in Christ made all of them aware of being one People of God, this awareness became all the more vivid through the presence of the Mother in the work of Christ and the Church.”

In 1990, Pope John Paul II elevated the National Shrine to the status of a minor basilica, bestowing this papal honor for its historical importance, dignity and significance as a center of worship and devotion and as an expression of a special union with the Holy Father.

On Wednesday, April 16, 2008, the first day of his Apostolic Journey to the United States, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI visited the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to celebrate Solemn Vespers and meet with the Bishops of the United States.

In his address to the Bishops in the Crypt Church of the Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI exclaimed,

“Dear Brother Bishops, it gives me great joy to greet you today at the start of my visit to this country…in this Basilica dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a shrine of special significance to American Catholics, right in the heart of your capital city. Gathered in prayer with Mary, Mother of Jesus, we lovingly commend to our heavenly Father the people of God in every part of the United States…I commend the Church in your country most particularly to the maternal care and intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States. May she who carried within her womb the hope of all nations intercede for the people of this country, so that all may be made new in Jesus Christ her Son. To all of you, and to your clergy, religious and lay faithful, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Risen Lord.”

Prior to his departure Pope Benedict XVI bestowed “a Golden Rose for Our Mother Mary” upon the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception as a sign of his reverence, esteem and paternal affection. The Golden Rose is an honor dating back to the eleventh century and its conferral is rare and considered a great privilege.

Posted in North America, Top Shrines and United States