3101 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016
In Advise and Consent:
“Gladly,” Orrin said. “Where’s your mother? I was sure she’d be here, hovering around.” “She’s at the Cathedral checking on things,” Hal said. “She kissed me, and started to cry, and ran.” He smiled. “I like the old girl,” he said.
“So do I,” Orrin said. “I only hope you’re as lucky as I am.”
“Oh, I think so,” Hal said with a new note in his voice suddenly. “Yes, I think so.”
“I think so, too,” his father said. “She’s a wonderful girl.” Page i1387
In Advise and Consent, it comes up in the first few pages and every now and then until the end – the impending nuptials between the daughter of Senator Stanley Danta, Crystal, and the son of Senator Orrin Knox, Hal. Those fictional nuptials would eventually take place at the National Cathedral but they’d be flanked by two other events which I won’t get into because I’d have to put in a spoiler alert. So let’s just say the characters mark a few moments in the cathedral.
It was chilly and early – but incredibly sunny – the day I checked out the National Cathedral. I used the spires as my guide – navigating the traffic on the ground to head toward something I could see in the air. When I arrived it took my breath away. The cathedral is so different from everything that surrounds it – it looks like it had hurtled from outer space and landed in that spot and stuck. It soars out of the earth like a jagged, monolith. I parked in the – You Can’t Stay Long – spot and walked in.
I tried to imagine the cast of characters Allen Drury invented. I could almost see them in the pews. Mostly, though I marveled at the beauty of the place. I’ve seen the National Cathedral over and over again – writing or just following the news. It’s where the nation marks the passing of our U.S. Presidents. I distinctly remember the funeral of President Ronald Reagan – and marveling at the gathering of living presidents who came to pay their respects. It’s always such a great picture – all of those familiar faces and experience packed into a few pews.
And it’s not just a place for presidents. Yes, there’s a statue of Abraham Lincoln, President Woodrow Wilson is buried there and First Lady Elenor Roosevelt is remembered in the cathedral. But the National Cathedral plucked all walks of life when deciding who to honor. Pope John XXII – big obvious – has a statue and Martin Luther King who gave his last sermon there has his own niche. And there’s a likeness of Helen Keller who was also laid to rest in the cathedral along with her teacher Anne Sullivan. In the stain glass windows – there’s an embed of a lunar rock and a likeness of the Confederate flag which kicked up some dust. On the outside – all sorts of characters are remembered in the gargoyles and the grotesques – including Darth Vadar and the mason who made the stone carvings for years.
President George Washington dreamed up the National Cathedral with Major L’Enfant who planned the capital – but it was President Theodore Rosevelt who laid the first stone in 1907. The cathedral took 83 years to build. I checked that fact a few times – it seemed so ridiculous that in the modern age it could take so long. I guess its true – but the cathedral was in use while it was under construction. So – as I wandered I could feel the importance of the cathedral in the history of our country. And I got to thinking – that if suddenly the cathedral unearthed itself and blasted into space and hurtled about, it would serve – to those who found it – as something of a time capsule of life in America for the past couple of centuries.