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Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

When “Americas First Cathedral” was built in 1806 as the first significant religious building after the adoption of the Constitution, it’s founders had no idea that 200 years later, it would be restored to the original grandeur that it once had so many years ago.

The restoration took two years to bring the Basilica back to its original prominence as the first Cathedral constructed in America. Because, over the years, the windows of the dome became covered. The objective was to “Restore the Light,” and so the design team wanted to bring the original intent of light or diffused light throughout the Church.

Contractors from all phases of trades renovated the entire building. Much of the original structure was maintained or repaired. But almost every finish interior and exterior of the Church were restored or replaced with new materials. New drawings called for the complete removal and replacement of the entire marble flooring.

Existing Verde Antique marble was replaced a new white Colorado Yule marble. This change in itself completely opened up the interior by allowing the new passage of light to give a bright and airy appearance to the entire Cathedral. The marble paving throughout the Nave and Chapel was fabricated and cut to fit within the completely redesigned heating and air conditioning system placed within the floor support system.

The focal point of the restoration in the chapel is the addition of the High Altar and Altar of Sacrifice. The high altar design was an attempt to recreate the original altar, which was destroyed in a fire years ago. Only the frontal panels of the original were salvaged. These panels were restored to their original dominance on the main elevation of the new altar. The new design included the addition of a central dome with hand-carved “cherubs” and the incorporation of the tabernacle complete with new marble and a bronze inlay frame.

The new altar design included the feature of a movable “altar of sacrifice” that can be adjusted to meet the needs of various religious and community activities. The rolling altar, with framing work of miscellaneous steel and bronze castors, was made specifically for this project. The front of the altar of sacrifice added a newly fabricated front panel to match the original panels of the salvaged high altar. The front altar moves on inlaid bronze rails approximately 12’ front to back. This combination of precision bronze, unique steel framing, and fragile, heavy cubic marble was an extraordinary engineering feat in its self.

Location: Baltimore, MD
Completion: 2006
Owner: Arch-Diocese of Baltimore
Architect: John G. Waite & Associates
General Contractor: Henry H. Lewis Contractors
10,000 sqft
Services: Design, fabricate and install Nave and Sanctuary floors, altar, stairs, statues

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