Quake damage to National Cathedral
August 23rd, 2011
06:04 PM ET

Washington National Cathedral sustains 'significant damage' in earthquake

By Dan Gilgoff and Larry Lazo

Washington (CNN) - Washington’s National Cathedral sustained "significant damage" during Tuesday’s 5.8-magnitude earthquake, the church said Wednesday, and will remain closed at least through Saturday, when it had planned to host a dedication event for the capital’s new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial.

Three of the four corner spires on the church’s dramatic central tower lost their ornate capstones, or finials, during the quake, and there are cracks in some of the church’s flying buttresses.

Called the "Gloria in Excelsis,” the cathedral’s central tower is the highest point in the nation’s capital, rising to a greater height than even the Washington Monument.

The cracks in the flying buttresses are around the apse, the area around the altar, though the buttresses supporting the central tower appear to be sound, the church said in a statement.

Though the dedication ceremony for the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial has been moved to a Roman Catholic church in Washington, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, National Cathedral officials said they hoped to host services Sunday.

The Rev. Samuel Lloyd, dean of the cathedral, said that there are no indications that the building has sustained serious structural damage but that structural engineers wanted more time to assess the building. “For safety’s sake, we want to be as careful as we can,” he said Wednesday, explaining the decision to keep the church closed.

“The good news is that this was not devastating,” he said. “It was quite serious, and there are some very important things we’re going to have to deal with, but it could have been much worse.”

Lloyd says he’s confident that the cathedral will go forward with three days of events around the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

"By that point, we will have had the time we need fully to assess what's going on,” he said. “All plans are full steam ahead."

Stonemasons and structural engineers are continuing to assess damage to the cathedral.

“We’ve been crawling all over the building since yesterday afternoon, and it just strikes me the amount of work that’s ahead of us,” the church’s mason foreman, Joe Alonso, said Wednesday. “Again, this is all handmade, this is a handmade building, and I just look at all of these little individual sculptures and works of art.”

“They’re delicate, but they’re still quite large,” he said. “When you look at those pinnacles up close, just knowing what goes into cutting and carving and laying these stones, we’ve got our work cut out for us. But we’re going to do it right.”
The quake struck at 1:51 p.m. Tuesday near the town of Mineral, Virginia, about 40 miles northwest of Richmond. Just 3.7 miles deep, it was felt from Georgia to northern New England.

No major injuries or extensive damage were reported, but the quake prompted evacuations of numerous office buildings – including the U.S. Capitol – and affected operations at a nuclear power plant in Virginia.

An Episcopal church, Washington National Cathedral considers itself a “spiritual home for the nation.” It is the traditional site for official presidential inauguration services and has hosted funeral and memorial services for 10 U.S. presidents.

According to its website, the cathedral was the longest-running project in the history of Washington. Construction began in 1907 and wasn’t completed until 1990.

“The earthquake which struck the East Coast today is a reminder of the continuing evolution of this planet, this fragile Earth, our island home,” said the Episcopal Church’s head, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori.

“It is also a reminder of how interconnected we are,” she said in a statement. “The quake damaged Washington National Cathedral and reminded many Episcopalians of the quakes that struck the Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand during the last year.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Church • DC

soundoff (495 Responses)
  1. driranek

    Something like a 'national cathedral' should be built to last many hundreds, if not a thousand years. Face it: there's basically no place in the country, and probably the world, that can't expect a significant quake in that sort of time period. If you are building with flying butresses and a vaulted masonry ceiling you have already failed.

    August 24, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  2. Svenge—her brother-in-law—an Oslo dentist and star of

    This thread was much more interesting when the rodents were in charge.

    August 24, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Juggling Squirrel-Jesus

      Rodents are always in charge, regardless of whether you humans realize it or not.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  3. Travis1325

    You silly, silly knave!

    August 24, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  4. WDinDallas

    The liberal handbook on blogging:

    1) Pull the race card;

    2) Insult the opponent's intelligence;

    3) Insult the opponent anyway you can think of;

    4) When you have really been burned, use all three above.

    Don't forget to copy your opponent’s remarks. It makes your retort look longer and more intelligent.

    Always remember, Obama supposed to be smart and you voted for him. That makes you smart too!

    Try atheism! That way you can deny religion in support of science. It doesn’t matter if you have no idea about how gravity works, just remember #2.

    August 24, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • SHRIKE

      Gravitation, or gravity, is a natural phenomenon by which physical bodies attract with a force proportional to their mass.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Okydoky

      The Evangelic Christian handbook on blogging:
      1) Pull the sin card;
      2) Insult the opponent's intelligence;
      3) Insult the opponent anyway you can think of;
      4) When you have really been burned, use all three above.
      Don't forget to copy your opponent’s remarks. It makes your retort look longer and more intelligent.
      Always remember, there is not evidence of a God but you will believe it anyway.
      Try Christianity! That way you can deny science in support of delusional fantasy. It doesn’t matter if you have no evidence of god, just remember #2.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  5. ytytytytyty

    Not that this is a good thing, but being Episcopalians, they will at least have the money to be able to replace it.

    August 24, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  6. gro...icmc

    It is true that more people have been killed In the name of there god. And there all fuc*ed up for it. U don't kill any one in the name of god. That is retarded. If u believe then u know it is not a good thing. If u don't well u don't. And we will see what happens when u die. Lol not good

    August 24, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  7. gro...icmc

    Well I'm glad. Like I care. If u and your group do so much why don't u figure out how to fix this countrys problems smart guy. And I work on aircraft. I don't pay money to belong to any club or cult. Sorry I don't think joining a group that would help me win on jeopardy something I would waist my time with. I do volunteer work at burn camps, and other activities for kids that are hurt or sick with out paying membership dues.

    August 24, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  8. chgogys

    It amazes me, the people that comment about misspelled words. They obviously have no intelligent comments to make.

    August 24, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • spelling

      Or maybe, God forbid, they just want to have a correct record! I would say the lack of intelligence lies in not caring about the correct spelling.

      August 24, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Wordy Woodpicker

      I am extremely understanding about typos and other flubs on casual boards like these... especially since we have no "edit" capability. Repeated sloppiness and ignorance of common words, like, 'there, they're and their", "your and you're", "to and too", the greengrocer's plurals, and a few other glaring errors show a certain sloppiness in general thought processes.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  9. Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics


    @Anti-, don't forcibly impose your legal murder and perversion upon the American society. Morality is collective responsibility. Get ready to battle with Christians as long as you plan to impose your filth upon the society. We will not just watch our society turn into a Sodom and get destroyed.

    I am curious what standard are you going by when it comes to our law?

    August 24, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • Naomi

      @Anti-, I have not much wish. I'd do anything to rescue the unborn babies from slaughter and to educate ho-mo-s-e-x-uals and their supporters that their lifestyles are sin. And ban blasphemies. Atheists can express their views freely seriously, but religions must not be mocked for the sake of mockery. Your immigration, health, economy, and security problems sound only cute comparing to these moral issues, for now.

      August 24, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • SHRIKE

      @ Naomi – "Of all religions the Christian is without doubt the one which should inspire tolerance most, although up to now the Christians have been the most intolerant of all men." Voltaire

      August 24, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • REB

      As a Gay Christian, I forgive you.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics


      @Anti-, ............... And ban blasphemies.
      And the Taliban share the same ideas. Hence my handle. I feel kind of sad because you have no concept of freedom. You only understand rule by power. And the small group of Evangelicals seeking the same here have forgotten or have no concept of what freedom is.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      @ Naomi:

      Naomi, If you don't live here, then don't lecture us on our society. If you are offended by our society, make the choice not to partake of what we produce. Its interesting that you lurch from admiration to revulsion of our country, and that you keep coming back for more. You must find the profane aspects of our society attractive, since you keep dwelling on it. By the way, the Secular West gave you that computer you are typing on: if it had been up to people in Asia, you would still be doing foot-binding, adding with an abacus,all with at least as much cultural and religious arrogance as in the West. Get a grip on the idea that the good comes with the bad, and no amount of prattling by an arrogant uber-Christian will change anyone's mind. I do find you amusing, in blinkered-vision kind of way.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Naomi

      You guys are silly to compare Christians with Taliban. Go ahead, be ruled by Taliban, if you like them so much, to taste the reality of life. You have no idea of the horror of absense of the organized Christian religion.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics


      You guys are silly to compare Christians with Taliban. Go ahead, be ruled by Taliban, if you like them so much, to taste the reality of life. You have no idea of the horror of absense of the organized Christian religion.

      That is your response and I rest my case lol

      August 24, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      Wait...I'm sorry...educate ho.mo.se.x.uals? I'm lost. Did they miss a class that the het.e.ro.se.xuals received?

      August 24, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

      Adelina I really do love you because you make it too easy to expose the ignorance. We are ruled by our Const i tution, not religion. You and the taliban types have no concept because you live in ignorance.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics


      Wait...I'm sorry...educate ho.mo.se.x.uals? I'm lost. Did they miss a class that the het.e.ro.se.xuals received?

      Yes that class is right after the class on changing our Consti tution to the bible. lol

      August 24, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  10. What's a girl to do

    Why do we have a 'national' cathedral?

    August 24, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Thor

      That is because we have a national christian religion.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • Thor

      Yes that perturbs me too.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      Because its in DC: don't read too much into the name.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  11. imagine

    these churches look nice until you take into account the horror that lies in the ridiculous organizations that use them....

    August 24, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Richard

      Yes, as opposed to atheist communists with ZERO moral underpinnings who have killed over 100 MILLION in the last century. Find a better alternative, good luck.

      August 24, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Stevie7


      Please provide one example of someone who killed in the name of atheism – not just a nation that used atheism as a tool to suppress dissent and also happened to kill people.

      Also, please get over your deluded notion that one needs someone looking over their shoulder to be moral.

      August 24, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • WDinDallas


      Russia, estimated that Stalin killed 3 million Jews and as many as 30 million Christians

      China, certainly not a done but over $100 million. Most done by Mao.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Stevie7

      Thanks for totally avoiding the question. Those rulers did not kill in the name of atheism. They were atheists that killed. Just as Hitler was a Christian, but did not kill in the name of Christianity. Try please actually reading my question next time.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Thor

      I suppose that the "holy" wars' deaths' and the conversion techniques of such times as the Spanish Inquisition, and such nice fellows as Sain Olaf, who chopped the heads off of non-convertable Europeans, all is simply a figment of the imagination. Of course, christians are the best people in the world, no matter what god they worship!

      August 24, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      @Stevie – Okay, then what about the Columbine shootings, in which the two killers were yelling about natural selection and posted on their site that they were doing it to promote evolution?
      Also, in response to the way you twisted your question, the so-called holy wars that you and Thor are referring to were also run by governments so also fall under the whole "nations supressing other religions" clause of your statement and are invalid.
      By the by, Atheists are the ones living in fear and looking over their shoulder because they're afraid God might actually exist. Christians know He does, embrace it, and no longer fear. I'd hate to be the one looking over my shoulder all the time.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Stevie7


      Congrats. You found two serial killers who promoted science (not natural selection). Would you like me to list off recent killers who used religion (note: science != atheism) as their motivation. And many nations have waged wars to promote their particular brand of religion. It was to spread their religion. Mao did not intend to spread atheism. That was not the goal. Wake up.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • i wonder

      @WDinDallas (and other errored thinkers)

      Stevie7 is correct. Stalin, Hitler, Mao and the others did not slaughter in the name of atheism. Jews and Christians held great political power, which threatened these tyrants' political power.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      @Stevie7 & iwonder – Like most Atheists, you two are in denial. Someday you'll have to grow up and face the facts. Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, Kim, and many other leaders used Atheism as a tool of oppression and slaughtered millions of religious people, whether they be Muslim, Jew, Christian, Pagan, Hindu, Buddhist, or whatever. They were Atheists who held great political power, much as you claim the Christian and Jewish leaders did.
      Also, your claim to Hitler as a Christian is complete fallacy. He started off Catholic and converted to Atheism during his term as Chancellor of Germany before World War II. He burned Bibles and enslaved and slaughtered Christians right along with Jews, Muslims, and other religious groups.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Stevie7

      "Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, Kim, and many other leaders used Atheism as a tool of oppression"
      Ryan, try actually reading what I wrote. That's exactly what I said – atheism was a tool. It was NOT the reason, unlike many atrocities that were conducted in the NAME of religion.

      And I can provide a number of quotes by Hitler himself that he was, indeed a Christian. Deny it all you want, but it doesn't make it any less true. Can you provide even ONE quote from Hitler (not second hand accounts) where Hitler said he was not a Christian? I won't be holding my breath.

      August 24, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Fred1

      @Ryan in Michigan @Stevie. I can’t speak for other atheists; but, being open-minded I frequently look for evidence of god. In fact one of my strongest arguments for atheism is that I can find no evidence of god. For example if your god actually existed wouldn’t he protect his cathedral from damage by his earth quake? If prayers get answered why are Christians get sick just as often as everyone else? Why don’t Christians live longer than average? How come god let Howard Camping stick it to his worshiper for 80 million dollars?

      August 24, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  12. gro...icmc

    @AGuest9 u are a moron. This country is in a disaster state. And Obama is doing nothing, but trying to turn it into a socialist state. More gov less power to the people. We run the show not them and its time we show them we are in charge and they work for us. Not vise versa. Our sitting gov all of them damn near is a joke. They only one with sound ideas and sticks to what he wants is Ron Paul. He predicated our situation back in the 80s. He knows to get rid of dept is to stop spending money we don't have and stop borrowing money from China. Get rid of the fed reserve. We need less spending less gov and less people who have little to zero experience telling us what we need and want. Americans want jobs. Get rid of illegal imagrents. There illegal and commited a crime coming here illegally. And should be handled as such. Not say oh u are here its ok. No its not ok. They need to fine any one who hires them $500,000 and 5 tears in prison. I'll bet that would help stop the inflow of people coming here illegally, when there are zero jobs at less pay. We need to worry about our selves and not the world. Stop giving aid to countrys when we have homeless here. Hungry kids. Our priorities are so fuc*ed up its not funny. We spent over a billion on lybia. For what in a year they hate us like Iraq and afgan? Enough is enough. Time to stop them from furthering the complete down fall of this once proud and powerful country. It's time we take it back from people who have there own goals in mind and put forth a real effort on rebuilding this country.

    August 24, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • AGuest9

      I'm a member of American Mensa, and you...?

      August 24, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • WDinDallas

      I doubt that AGuest9. If so, then you should know the difference between IQ and common sense. Being a member since 1982 you come to realize that IQ just says you have promise and talent. You can be ignorant with an IQ of 180.

      So, what does this conversation have about the Cathedral? Did a falling stone just defy gravity and I missed it?

      August 24, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Patrish

      As I recall Bush was the one that started the war in Iraq, so how does if fall on this Pres. Just gotta blame someone I guess.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Thor

      Of course, the dudes on September 11 had absolutely nothing to do with starting wars anywhere!

      August 24, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  13. JenA

    I lived in DC for two years and the National Cathedral was and remains my favorite spot in DC. I am sorry to hear that it was damaged and hope it won't take too long to fix it up. Incredible architecture, wonderful grounds high atop the city, and amazing carvings all over it, including sculptures of Darth Vader and other contemporary images. Totally worth a visit!!

    August 24, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  14. James

    Its a quake not a quike

    August 24, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • imagine

      actually this quake was a quirk...

      August 24, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Thor

      Ha Ha! (Quivering in my boots) Had to get this off quick before I quit.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  15. dave

    That's why most contemporary churches don't bother building fancy churches with spires and whatnot's. I guess it's just cheaper to maintain a bland utilitarian building. Granted, the national cathedral is more like a cultural heritage so the fact it's damaged is not much different from the fact that the Washington monument was damaged. Hope that restore it to good condition and make sure it's safe for people to go in.

    August 24, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Mike

      Considering the cost involved, and how much the Catholic Church has to spend on the abuse cases, it might be more appropriate to leave it as is. Shows the church is broken.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Fred1

      To me the most importat difference is that if god existed I would expect him to do a better job of protecting his house of worship

      August 25, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  16. Pommy

    Look, I'm a practicing Catholic who recently converted from being a Protestant. I find it amazing that Christians would say that a natural disaster must be God warning us. It was a natural disaster. A church is much more than the building in which one worships. God's will doesn't always happen on Earth, otherwise we wouldn't have to pray that it is!

    August 24, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • i wonder

      Pommy: "It was a natural disaster."

      - Yes, natural - as are spontaneous healings and spectacular touchdowns and the rest of the alleged 'miracles'. There is no verified evidence of supernatural intervention in any area of life.

      - and -

      "God's will doesn't always happen on Earth, otherwise we wouldn't have to pray that it is!"

      - So, you are not praying to a "God", you are praying *at* each other to do its purported bidding.

      August 24, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  17. James

    Yesterday at about 5pm eastafrican time a man by the name awuor said all about the quick.i just could not believe but at about 10pm the same day the quick came .do you think he guessed.now am believing.

    August 24, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  18. CNN standards take another hit

    Way to proof your article CNN–I'm sure the builder of the church didn't include a knave in the design–he certainly included a nave though.

    August 24, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  19. Gabriel Jaramillo

    All I am worried about is President Obama. I hope he and the First Family are OK!!!

    August 24, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Yes, they are. The free world is still safe from the radical right.

      August 24, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • George W.

      Damn. Thats horrible. Guess we'll have to wait until 2012 to boot his a** out....

      August 24, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  20. Beth

    It's "nave", not "knave"- proofread, please!

    August 24, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.