One of the good parts of life in Europe is its grand churches and cathedrals. As a contemplative person, I love these spaces. I love their quiet. I love their grandeur. I love the symbolism written into nearly every bit of their structure and décor, even if I don't know how to read all those symbols. (I've written a little about that here.)
Such grand spaces have never been part of my US life. But a couple weeks ago the friend I'm staying with invited me to join her and her mother for high tea at Washington National Cathedral, an Episcopal church that has been the site of many of America's important moments of grief and celebration. The teas, which serve as a fundraiser for the cathedral, are offered by the women's guide that volunteers to keep up the cathedral's gardens. Tea includes a pre-tea tour of the cathedral, led by a super knowledgeable docent.
Though it was constructed rather recently, as Gothic-style churches go, authentic construction techniques were used so the cathedral took 83 years to construct (1907-1990). It's now the second largest cathedral in the United States and the sixth largest in the world. Though "national" is in its name, the church has never had any government funding. While numerous notable Americans are buried here, Woodrow Wilson is the only president entombed in the cathedral. According to our tour guide, he was a big supporter of having a church like this in the capital.