A Cathedral in Disarray

I’ve written more than once about the National Cathedral. It’s arguably my favorite place in DC. I love to go sit in the gardens to read or think. It’s often hard to describe in words what I love about it: the gardens, the architecture, the atmosphere.

Throughout the summer, even when it was unbearably hot and humid, I would still walk down from my apartment to the cathedral or stop on my way home from work. I’d take a book and read in the gardens or against when of the back corners of the cathedral until my eyes got tired, then I’d just sit and think and watch all the people flowing in and out of the grounds.

Early in the summer I decided it was time to photograph some of the lesser known corners of the cathedral grounds. Hidden nooks and crannies, certain angles and edges that make the cathedral so special to me. It was an effort to not just show people that it’s a beautiful spot, but to show them my beautiful spot. As per usual it’s taken me almost 6 months to get the images developed, holding off spending the money to do it. Holding off because I know the place isn’t the same as it was when I took the pictures.

Earthquakes in Washington, DC are rare. So rare in fact that when you move there you don’t think to yourself “what do I do if there’s an earthquake.” It doesn’t even cross your mind. It was a confusing moment when my office building started to shake. I honestly figured that it was probably just construction or a big truck going by. The office supplies on my desk barely budged. Given the minimal damage it was surprising to learn that other structures in the city were considerably less fortunate. Large pieces of ceiling fell at Union Station, cracks developed in the Washington Monument and parts of my beloved Cathedral actually came crashing down.

The pictures of the National Cathedral that spread after the earthquake were almost sickening. Spires completely gone, gargoyles decapitated, whole walls practically crumbling. One would think it couldn’t get much worse. But then we had a hurricane. A crane that had been set-up to begin repairs on the Cathedral collapsed into the Herb Cottage gift shop and the Bishop’s Garden causing even more damage.

Aside from my trips by the Cathedral on the bus each morning, my visits all but stopped. Not only was the whole area fenced and gated off, but I actually couldn’t bring myself to go by and take pictures of the destruction. A few weeks ago I finally got up the courage to go by and took a handful of pictures, trying my best to avoid the fences and the scaffolding.

Parts of the Cathedral have finally reopened but they say complete repairs could take up to 10 years. It’s almost hard to believe that the photographs I took in June were taken only a couple of months before the photographs I took the other day.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss my spot. Miss going to the gardens to read and think. Miss watching the little kids run around and the tourists get quieter and quieter the closer they got to the building. It makes me sad to think that the parts of the Cathedral I found so beautiful, other people may not have a chance to see again for another 10 years.

Bishop's Garden Wall
Bishop's Garden Door
Bishop's Garden stairs
Bishop's Garden Stairs
Bishop's Garden Stairs
Behind the Bishop's Garden
Cathedral Tower
Cathedral Gargoyle
Washington National Cathedral
National Cathedral Side Staircase
National Cathedral: Post Earthquake
National Cathedral: Post Earthquake

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