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Best Religious Sites in Washington DC

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The largest mosque in the United States, the Islamic Center is built with white limestone and has a 162-foot (49-meter) high minaret. Within, stained-glass windows and fine Persian carpets contribute to the mosque's ornate and lavish artistry. In the Center complex, only the mosque is open to the public. Women must wear headscarves and visitors wearing shorts are not admitted. Tours are offered daily.

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This basilica, the largest Roman Catholic church in the Western Hemisphere, was dedicated in 1959. The architecture of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is a mix of Romanesque and Byzantine styles. The Great Upper Church boasts fantastic mosaics, stained glass windows and individual chapels. The lower level Crypt Church is smaller and darker, but equally impressive in atmosphere and ornamentation. The basilica has a bookstore, gift shop and cafeteria.

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The National Presbyterian Church is a landmark institution in Washington DC, with origins dating back to the 18th Century. Notable personalities to have visited the church include people like President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mother Teresa and Frederick Douglass. Besides holding traditional and contemporary service, the church has several active ministries. The best known is the Music ministry, and people from all over come to listen to the beautiful concerts performed by notable ensembles as well as solo performers. An extremely popular concert venue, the church provides an incredible atmosphere and acoustics, perfect for musical performances. Often, concerts are free of charge, making for a perfect opportunity to experience music in a unique setting.

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Franciscan Monastery, a century-old monastery is one of Washington DC's hidden delights. The garden, set on a hillside and reached by winding paths, is full of big trees and places to sit quietly among the flowers and small outdoor shrines. The public is allowed to view the upper church's full-scale replicas of Holy Land shrines. In the lower church, visitors will find a replica of the Roman catacombs, which can only be seen on scheduled tours. Guided tours last about 45 minutes.

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Because of its close proximity to the White House, St John's has become known as the "Church of the Presidents." In fact, since its establishment in 1815, every chief executive has attended services here; some on a regular basis. Pew 54 has been designated the "Presidents Pew." It was designed by Henry LaTrobe, who also did the restoration of the U.S. Capitol and White House after the War of 1812. In the 1870s, the plain glass windows were gradually replaced with exquisitely crafted stained glass depicting presidents and other notable parishioners.

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Built in 1840, the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle is both a beautiful and historical place of worship. St. Matthew is the patron saint of civil servants, so it is no wonder than this cathedral is the most prominent cathedral in the United States' capital. Each year, the special "Red Mass" is held for the Supreme Court justices, President's cabinet, members of Congress, and - sometimes - even the President himself. This "Red Mass" is so named for the color of the vestments worn by those holding the mass. This famous cathedral, which was designed by New York architect C. Grant La Farge, was also the place where President John F. Kennedy's funeral was held in 1963.

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Sixth and I is a Jewish Synagogue that provides a place for Jews to worship and also serves as a meeting place for the community members. This historic building located in the nation's capital is a living witness of the past Jewish generations. Discussions and classes are held on various topics from the past and present conflicts and the future challenges for the community. Religious services and other events happen here.

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A frequent site of nationally significant memorial services, the National Cathedral is open to worshipers of all denominations. Under construction for most of the 20th Century and completed and consecrated in 1990, this Gothic cathedral is the sixth largest in the world. Flying buttresses, gargoyles, crypts, a 98-foot (30-meter) vaulted ceiling and many intimate chapels contribute to this architectural masterpiece. The grounds invite exploration with curving walkways, well-kept hedges and spacious lawns from which to view the city.

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