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Stretch your virtual legs with a tour of the National Shrine

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Orhan Cam | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 04/29/21

We may not be able to make an in-person pilgrimage, but we can be there in spirit.

Yet another pilgrimage season has been halted by the world pandemic. Thankfully, however, there are still an abundance of online tours to fill the gap. Today, we look at one of the best places to virtually visit, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. 

Located on the beautiful grounds of The Catholic University of America, the D.C. Shrine is the largest Catholic church in North America. The building is so big and the art so varied that it could take days to see it all. Even the virtual tours had to be split up so as to not overwhelm eager visitors. 

Part of what makes the National Shrine’s tour so great is the full 360° viewing range. A simple swipe of the mouse brings the illuminated mosaics and domes to life from any angle. This feature is complemented by an impressive freedom of movement. With a VR headset, it really feels as though one is walking through the basilica. 

According to its website, the National Shrine contains 93,845 square feet of mosaic artwork. Awe-inspiring mosaics decorate each of the more than 80 chapels and oratories, as well as the five massive domes overhead. The virtual tour even prevents neck-strain while trying to take in the incredible ceiling art. 

Four tours in one

Each virtual tour is supported with historical and cultural information about the various sights. This helps visitors get closer than ever to exceptional sacred art, while offering a deeper connection to one’s faith. Self-guided tours have never been more educational. 

The National Shrine offers four distinct virtual tours, organized by level. In the Great Upper Church, there are separate tours of the nave and the sanctuary. Each of these sections is lined with oratories and chapels adorned with jaw-dropping sacred art. 

As many CUA alumni can attest, even more stunning sights await below, in the Crypt Church. Here, visitors are treated to a more intimate place of worship, with a low, sloping stone ceiling. The Crypt Church contains more gorgeous mosaics, as well as chapels and oratories. 

Even the Crypt Church needed to be broken into two tours. The second takes a step outside the Crypt Church to view Memorial Hall. Here, there are wonderfully carved life-size sculptures of saints, including the Blessed Mother, St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, and a whole lot more.

Once you’ve cleared your schedule, click here to take a virtual tour of the National Shrine

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