Posts Tagged ‘Washington National Cathedral’

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Field Marshall Sir John Dill Statue and Gravesite

During this week in 1944, British Field Marshal Sir John Dill passed away here in D.C. A memorial service was subsequently held for him in Washington National Cathedral, and the route of the cortege was lined by thousands of troops, following which he was interred in Arlington National Cemetery. Later that year he was posthumously awarded the American Distinguished Service Medal. He also received an unprecedented joint resolution of Congress expressing appreciation for his services. So on this lunchtime bike ride, I set out to visit his grave (MAP), and then learn more about the British general who was so well thought of during his time here in this country.

John Greer Dill was born on Christmas Day, 1881, in County Armagh, Ireland. Always destined for a career in the military, Dill attended the Methodist College Belfast, Cheltenham College and the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. At the age of 19, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and sent to South Africa to serve in the Second Boer War. He then served in World War I. Dill was promoted to the office of director of military operations and intelligence of the British War Office in 1934 and knighted for service to the empire three years later, in 1937. He would then go on to also serve during World War II.

From May of 1940 to December of 1941 he was the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, the professional head of the British Army. He subsequently was to the United States by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, where he became Chief of the British Joint Staff Mission and then Senior British Representative on the Combined Chiefs of Staff. It was during this time that Dill developed a close personal friendship with George C. Marshall, the U.S. chief of staff, which resulted in the formation of the “special relationship” between the United Kingdom and the United States. This is evidenced by President Franklin D. Roosevelt description of Dill as “the most important figure in the remarkable accord which has been developed in the combined operations of our two countries.”

Upon Dill’s death, Marshall intervened to have Dill buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  Dill’s plot is marked by one of only two equestrian statues in the cemetery (the other being of Major General Philip Kearny). The Dill statue is located in a prominent spot most visitors to the cemetery pass by en route from the Visitors Center to Arlington House or the The John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame and grave site. There, he is interred alongside his “American friends and associates,” and to this day remains the only foreigner to be so honored.

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

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The Georgetown Labyrinth

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a labyrinth as “a place that has many confusing paths or passages” and asserts that it is synonymous with a maze. But that definition is incorrect. A labyrinth and a maze are not the same. There is a distinction between the two. A maze is multicursal and refers to a complex branching puzzle to be deciphered with choices of path and direction, dead ends and either no exit or one that is difficult to find. A labyrinth, on the other hand, is unicursal, with a single, unambiguous path leading to the center and back which is not difficult to navigate.

The Labyrinth Society is a international organization whose mission is to support all those who create, maintain and use labyrinths.  According to the Society, a labyrinth is a tool for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation which is also thought to enhance right brain activity. Labyrinths have been an important part of many cultures spiritually for thousands of years, and have also been used to create decorative art. Walking through one is usually intended to be a meditative and contemplative act, and many religions, including some Christian churches, integrate walking meditation into their spiritual practices. For others, labyrinth walking is simply a great way to unwind on a beautiful day and clear your mind.

There are a number of labyrinths in the greater D.C. area – a dozen, actually. Two are nearby in Virginia. One is indoors, the other outdoors, and both are located at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria. There are also two in Maryland, one at the Hallowood Retreat Center in Dickerson, and the other at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton. There are also eight which are located in D.C. proper. One is located on the rooftop terrace of a commercial office in northeast D.C. which houses the American Psychological Association.   There are also labyrinths located in some of the city’s churches. These include The Church of the Epiphany, Westminster Presbyterian Church, St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, and at Washington National Cathedral. The remaining labyrinth is the one I chose to visit and walk during this lunchtime bike ride.

Located in the Georgetown Waterfront Park, located at the southern end of 33rd Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood, The Georgetown Labyrinth is the only labyrinth located on public property in D.C.  It was provided by the TKF Foundation, a private grant-making foundation whose purpose is to create “Open Spaces, Sacred Places.”  The Georgetown Labyrinth is meant to “foster human spirituality and connections for people of all beliefs, faiths, and cultures.”

No one knows for certain the exact number of labyrinths in the United States, but in addition to the seven in D.C. there are 112 more in Virginia, and another 71 labyrinths in Maryland. There are labyrinths located in every state, with some states having 400 or more. So if you’d like to visit and maybe even experience a labyrinth walk for yourself, but you’re not in the local D.C. area, there is bound to be one near you. You can find one using the online World-Wide Labyrinth Locater. And you don’t have to wait until World Labyrinth Day (which is the first Saturday in May) to do it.

Woodrow Wilson’s Interment Site

Woodrow Wilson’s Interment Site

In addition to the distinction of remaining a resident of the National Capitol City after leaving office in 1921, President Woodrow Wilson also has the distinction of being the only President whose final resting place is in D.C.  The 28th President is interred at Washington National Cathedral, which is located at 3101 Wisconsin Avenue (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Cathedral Heights neighborhood. And on today’s 91st anniversary of his death, it was the destination for this bike ride.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson served as President from 1913 until 1921. While still in office, President Wilson suffered a severe stroke in October of 1919, leaving him paralyzed on his left side, and with only partial vision in his right eye. This was compounded by the effects of a previous stroke he had while sleeping one night in 1906, which had caused blindness in his left eye. As a result, he was confined to bed for weeks and sequestered from everyone except his wife, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, and his physician, Dr. Cary Grayson. As there was no clear constitutional precedent at that time for what to do if a president became unable to perform his duties, Edith Wilson effectively led in his place.

Wilson served as President during a time prior to ratification of the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which limits a President to two terms in office. And had it not been for his significant health problems, he would have run and most likely been elected to a third term as President. But by the following year his disability had diminished his power and influence, and the Democratic Party ignored his tentative plan to run for re-election.

Despite his poor health limiting the time he was able to serve in office, Wilson was not only one of the more effective Presidents in history, but one of the more interesting ones as well. In addition to being the only President to live in D.C. after leaving office, and the only one to make D.C. his final resting place, the following are just a few of the more interesting facts about him.

Although he could not read until he was 9 years old and was mostly home-schooled, he went on to be the only President, so far, to earn a PhD.  He went by “Tom” or “Tommy” for most of his life, and didn’t switch to going by his middle name until he headed off to law school, because he thought it sounded more impressive. While living there, he was the first person to ride a bike in the city of Wilmington, North Carolina.  Afterward he remained an avid bike rider.  He was the first President to cross the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the first President to hold a press conference. He holds the record for spending more time outside the U.S. than any other President. Wilson was the first President to attend a World Series game, throwing out the first pitch of Game 2 between the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies in 1915.   Wilson holds the record among all U.S. Presidents for the most rounds of golf, having played over 1,000 rounds, or almost one every other day.  As President, Wilson issued a declaration creating Mother’s Day. His nickname is Professor because he was one at Princeton, where he was voted as the most popular professor for six consecutive years before becoming President of the University. He was married twice, and his second wife was a direct descendant of legendary Native American Pocahontas. He let flocks of sheep stay on the White House lawn. And after running on a platform of keeping the U.S. out of World War I, and then leading the nation into the war, Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 for his efforts to avert future world wars. The Second World War would begin two decades later.  And the last thing he said was his wife’s name, Edith.

President Wilson retired in 1921, and he and his wife moved into an elegant 1915 town house on Embassy Row in northwest D.C.’s Kalorama neighborhood. Less than three years later, on February 3, 1924, the 67-year old former President died at home of another stroke and other heart-related problems. He was buried at the Washington National Cathedral, which was under construction at the time. Thirty years after his death his body was moved inside the church, where he was interred in a sarcophagus. Edith Wilson stayed in the home another 37 years, dying there on December 28, 1961, after which she was also interred at the Cathedral, below the tile in front of President Wilson’s crypt.

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Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

On this bike ride I rode to The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, located on land donated by The Catholic University of America, which is adjacent to the Basilica at 400 Michigan Avenue (MAP) in northeast D.C.  The prominent Latin Rite Catholic basilica is the largest Catholic church in the United States, and the eighth largest religious structure in the world.  It is also the tallest habitable building in D.C.

Visited by Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Mother Teresa, among others, the Basilica, though distinctly American, rivals the great sanctuaries of Europe and the world.  Its architecture is Romanesque-Byzantine in style, and in comparison to Gothic structures such as the Washington National Cathedral, a Romanesque church is quite simple in appearance.   Open 365 days a year, the Basilica features daily guided tours and operates a Catholic gift shop and book store, and a cafeteria.  The Basilica also houses the world’s largest collection of contemporary ecclesiastical art.  It is host to nearly one million visitors annually, attracting pilgrims and tourists alike from across the country and around the world.

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 not the cathedral of Washington D.C. The designated cathedral church of the Archdiocese of Washington is the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, not the Basilica.  It is oftentimes affectionately referred to as “America’s Catholic Church.”  The Basilica 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 the nation.

The Basilica has a seating capacity of 3,500 worshippers at one time, and offers six Masses and five hours of confessions daily.  Special Masses, devotions, pilgrimages, and concerts are also offered on Holy days and holidays.  It does not have its own parish community, but serves the adjacent Catholic University of America, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and hosts numerous Holy Masses for various organizations of the Church from across the United States.

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Woodrow Wilson House

Woodrow Wilson House

While most Presidents happily retire back to their home state after leaving office, Woodrow Wilson decided to remain in D.C.   In fact, he is the only American President to select D.C. to be his home following his final term in office.  So on a recent bike ride I chose to go by the Woodrow Wilson House in northwest D.C.   Sometimes referred to as “the other executive mansion,” the house is located at 2340 S Street (MAP) on Embassy Row in the city’s Kalorama Neighborhood.

Late in 1920 after leading the nation through the first World War, winning the Nobel Peace Prize, and creating the League of Nations, the 28th President’s second and final term was nearing its end.  Needing a place to live after leaving The White House, his wife Edith Bolling Wilson began to search for an appropriate residence.  His second wife, she had lived in D.C. before they met and received a small fortune when her former husband, a prosperous local jeweler, passed away.  However, her husband made his own plans.  On December 14, Wilson insisted that his wife attend a concert.  When she returned he presented her with the deed to the Georgian style mansion on S Street.  He had bought the house despite having never even seen it.  The former President and his wife moved into the home on Inauguration Day in 1921.

The Wilsons moved into their new retirement haven, but it wasn’t an easy move.  Prohibition forbid the transportation of alcohol, and that presented a problem for Wilson, who did not want to leave his fine wine collection in the White House for his successor.  The recently elected Warren G. Harding was known to be a heavy drinker.  He appealed to Congress, and Congress granted an exception to Prohibition by passing a special law just for him, which allowed one person on one specific day “to transport alcohol from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to 2340 S Street.”

Wilson, partially paralyzed from a stroke he suffered in 1919, spent his few remaining years in partial seclusion at the house, under the continuous care of his wife and servants.  It was from the balcony of this house that Wilson addressed a crowd in November of 1923 as his last public appearance.  On February 3, 1924, he died in an upstairs bedroom.  He was laid to rest in Washington National Cathedral, becoming not just the only President to remain in D.C. after his presidency, but also the only President to be buried in D.C.   Mrs. Wilson continued to live in the residence until her death in 1961.   She bequeathed the property and all of its original furnishings to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which designated it a National Historic Landmark in 1964.  The National Trust continues to own the house, and currently operates it as a museum.

I think President Wilson would have approved of my adventures biking around and exploring D.C.  He cycled regularly, including several cycling vacations.  However, as President he was unable to bike around D.C. for security reasons.  Unable to ride, he took to playing golf with equal enthusiasm.  In fact, Wilson holds the record among all U.S. Presidents for the most rounds of golf, having played over 1,000 rounds, or almost one every other day.

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