WASHINGTON, THE NATIONAL SHRINE OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
Church dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, who was declared patroness of the United States by the Provincial Council of Baltimore in 1846. The project for the shrine was begun in 1914, after Pope St. Pius X approved the plans, which originated with Bishop Shahan, fourth rector of the Catholic University. Pope Benedict XV sent a mosaic of Murillo's Immaculate Conception in 1919, in time for the cornerstone laying by Cardinal Gibbons in 1920. Popes Pius XI and XII sent further favors to the shrine, visited by Cardinal Pacelli in 1936, before his elevation to the papacy. The main church was solemnly dedicated in 1959. More than fifty chapels have been installed since the dedication. The campanile houses a fifty-six-bell carillon. With a seating capacity of six thousand persons, the shrine is one of the largest religious buildings in the world. All the American dioceses and numerous religious communities and organizations have contributed to its erection. Over one million persons visit the shrine each year. Pope John Paul II addressed several thousand religious women at the shrine (October 7, 1979) to close his seven-day visit of the United States.