The Baltimore Basilica Returns to Original Splendor

The Baltimore Basilica

A sketch of the Baltimore Basilica

A sketch of the original Baltimore Basilica, circa 1808. The Basilica was designed by architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who also designed the U.S. Capitol Building. The Baltimore Basilica hide caption

itoggle caption The Baltimore Basilica

Last week, the nation's first cathedral, the Baltimore Basilica, came back to life after a two-year, $34 million restoration. The Basilica has now reclaimed its original neo-classical vision, by the Colonial architect Benjamin Latrobe.

Once again, light pours from 24 skylights in the dome — skylights which had been painted black during World War II. More light streams in through the translucent side windows — windows which had once been replaced with stained glass. The walls have been returned to a rich cream color, as Latrobe intended.

"For Catholics, this really was the mother church, but for all Americans, this building became a symbol of religious freedom," says Mark Potter, the executive director of the church's restoration project. "Here you had this recently oppressed minority group rising out of the shadows, and building one of the most beautiful churches in North America."