Yesterday I went on a field trip to the National Cathedral with my daughter's 7th grade class. Being a 6th generation Washingtonian I have a history of never actually visiting some of the places right under my nose, figuring they will always be there for me. But as I approach 54 (on Thursday!), I realize that it's time I discover the things in my own backyard. So I signed up to chaperone this trip. Not only is the Cathedral architecturally significant (Gothic style, 100% stone construction), it is a wealth of history and...needlework. Yes, needlework! Unlike pews with the built-in kneelers that I am familiar with, in the Cathedral, worshippers sit in chairs. So when they kneel, they need a kneeler. Each one is a work of art, a different original needlepoint cushion, and most often red.
One of my favorites, this one depicts Louisa May Alcott. The walls are covered with needlepoint tapestries, both modern and traditional. There are over 1,500 pieces of needlework in the Cathedral, portraying historic Americans, floral patterns, baby animals and many other work painstakingly done “for the Glory of God.” One could spend a day just looking at kneelers. And stained glass, gargoyles, intricate ironwork, stone carvings....
As the docent led us on our tour, I took many, many pictures, but lighting conditions were bad and most were too dark or blurred because of the slow shutter speed, so bear with me. (I hate the flash). Off to the right of the main aisle there is a Children's Chapel, where everything, including the kneelers,with their playful animal motifs, is scaled to the size of a six year old child. Downstairs in the crypt level, side-by-side lie the ashes of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan.
Queens and Presidents have walked the very same marble floors that we did. Like the White House is "the People's house", the Cathedral is the people's church, “intended for national purposes, such as public prayer, thanksgiving, funeral orations, etc., and assigned to the special use of no particular Sect or denomination, but equally open to all.”.
And did I mention the kids?