This is the 100-year anniversary of the Blessing of the Land and laying of the cornerstone.
The many functions of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception are still closed per COVID-19 lockdown orders, but the community is still finding reason to celebrate as the historic American Catholic church approaches centennial anniversaries of both the Blessing of the Land and the laying of the cornerstone in 2020.
On the Basilica’s website, where they keep an accurate timeline for the historical development of the largest church in North America, they note that the Blessing of the Land took place on the morning of March 16, 1920. The land was dedicated as the future site of the National Shrine before a crowd of more than 6,000, including 1,500 Knights of Columbus and 500 Daughters of Isabella.
This significant event marked the official beginning of the Basilica’s construction, but the cornerstone was not laid until September 23, 1920. The celebration was led by Cardinal James Gibbons, who oversaw the laying of the foundational building block before a gathering of over 10,000 Catholics. In a post on the Basilica website, they write:
Through the generosity of American Catholics, the prayers of the faithful, and the hard work of artisans and laborers, the National Shrine has been built to praise God and give honor to His Mother—and our Mother. The one hundred years since 1920 have truly marked a century of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The September anniversary will launch a year of celebration honoring 100 years of faithful observance and service to the community. Our Sunday Visitor reports that the year-long festivities will kick off with a special Mass, featuring Archbishop of Washington Wilton D. Gregory as principal celebrant.
The Basilica intends to hold special Masses, concerts, pilgrimages, exhibits, and other events over the course of the following year; however, due to the uncertainty of the remaining isolation orders, these events have yet to be scheduled. More information will be available here as it develops.
While checking in on the Basilica website for updates to the centennial celebration schedule, we suggest interested parties take a moment to explore the easy to navigate pages to learn about the Basilica’s history. You will also find listings of activities still offered by the Shrine during the coronavirus isolation, including lighting a candle, prayer intentions, and streamed Mass services. A series of virtual tours that open the Great Upper Church and Sanctuary, the Crypt Church, and the Memorial Hall are also available for online viewing.