Inside Washington’s ‘Mother Church’

Pope Francis will pray with bishops this week at St. Matthew's in Washington, but the cathedral has already seen its share of world events, including President Kennedy’s funeral and a visit from Pope John Paul II.

(Related article: What U.S. Latinos Mean to the Pope)

Located in downtown Washington, the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle is fittingly named after the patron saint of civil servants. St. Matthew, who is said to have been a tax collector, is seen in the mosaic above the bronze front doors. (Emily Jan/Next America)
There is a plaque at the front of the sanctuary commemorating President John F. Kennedy. On Nov. 25, 1963, St. Matthew’s Cathedral held Kennedy's funeral Mass, which was heavily attended by world leaders. (Emily Jan/Next America)
The Mother Church of the Washington Archdiocese also has a papal history. During his 1979 visit to the nation’s capital, Pope John Paul II attended a Mass with 1,500 priests here. On Wednesday, Pope Francis will pray with bishops in the same sanctuary. (Emily Jan/Next America)
The church can seat 1,000 worshippers. A day before each new term of the U.S. Supreme Court, the church hosts a Red Mass—a celebration for Catholic legal professionals. Justices, members of Congress, and other government officials attend the event. This year, it will take place on Oct. 4. (Emily Jan/Next America)
St. Francis of Assisi, the pope’s namesake, is seen in this mosaic inside the church’s Chapel of St. Anthony of Padua. The mosaic shows St. Francis and his disciples in the hill towns of Umbria in Italy, where he preached. (Emily Jan/Next America)
This mosaic of St. Mark and the lion is among four that celebrate the evangelists of the Bible. St. Matthew is seen with his angel, St. Luke with a winged bull, and St. John with an eagle. The walls of the cathedral are covered with this style of mosaic, which, according to the church, are “suggestive of those found in the renowned churches of Ravenna, Italy.” (Emily Jan/Next America)
Along with Kennedy's funeral, St. Matthew’s Cathedral has been the site of several funerals for major government officials, including Filipino President Manuel Quezon in 1944, Sen. Joseph McCarthy in 1957, Justice William Brennan in 1997, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist in 2005. Rehnquist’s funeral, though, was conducted in the Lutheran tradition. (Emily Jan/Next America)
Like many Catholic churches, St. Matthew’s Cathedral is full of stunning marble statues, like this one by Gordon Kray. It depicts “Mother reaching down to fallen humanity and pointing to her ascended Son,” according to a church description. (Emily Jan/Next America)
Going up 190 feet high, the interior of the church is filled with mosaics, red marble, and statues. But in one corner of the sanctuary, this 70-pipe polished tin organ stands out. (Emily Jan/Next America)
St. Matthew's was established in 1840 at its previous location on 15th and H Streets in Northwest Washington. The first Mass in its current location took place in 1895. This year, the cathedral is celebrating its 175th anniversary. (Emily Jan/Next America)

Emily Jan (Photography) contributed to this article