August 23, 2011

The highest elevated point of Washington, D.C., the “Gloria in Excelsis” central tower of Washington National Cathedral, sustained significant damage in the 5.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Tuesday afternoon. Mason Foreman Joe Alonso is currently assessing the damage to the Cathedral building with the help of other Cathedral stonemasons and structural engineers.

Three of four pinnacles (corner spires) on the central tower have been damaged. Specifically, three “finials” (capstones shaped like fleurs-de-lys) have fallen from them, with more significant damage to two of the pinnacles. Similar decorative elements on the Cathedral’s exterior also appear to be damaged. Cracks have appeared in the flying buttresses around the apse at the Cathedral’s east end, the first portion of the building to be constructed, but the buttresses supporting the central tower seem to be sound.

No individuals were injured either within the Cathedral or on its grounds. Despite some cracks on upper floors in the interior, no damage to the stained-glass windows has been reported. The building has been closed to visitors until further notice.

“The Cathedral structure was damaged in today’s earthquake,” said Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III, “but we are thankful that no injuries have occurred. Our prayers go out now for all those up and down the East Coast who have been similarly affected by this rare event.

The National Cathedral cannot be more grateful now for the National Cathedral Association (NCA), the nationwide network of supporters that raised funds to build this edifice beginning in the 1890s. We urge all friends of this spiritual home for the nation to visit our website,, to learn more about the damage and upcoming efforts to make repairs.”

The central tower was completed in the 1960s and benefited from a restoration in the 1990s after repeatedly sustaining lightning damage. Constructed in fourteenth-century English “perpendicular” Gothic style, Washington National Cathedral is the sixth-largest Cathedral in the world and the second-largest such church in the United States.

It was constructed between 1907 and 1990. Erected on Mount St. Alban, the most commanding hill in the District of Columbia, Washington National Cathedral rises to a greater height than the Washington Monument.

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