Bishop’s Garden at National Cathedral

Image result for bishop's garden national cathedral washington dc

This week we watched on CNN the state funeral of the late 41st president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush. Held at Washington National Cathedral, the nearly two-hour service paid tribute with great dignity and respect. This “house of prayer for all people” plays an official role in this country that is similar to that of Westminster Abbey in London, although U. S. government has never designated it thus.

The cathedral’s surrounding grounds comprise fifty-nine acres.

Image result for bishop's garden national cathedral washington dc

Frederick Law Olsmsted, Jr., designed the original plan between 1907-1927 during the time of the excavation of the nave of the cathedral. His purpose was to provide a rich tapestry complementing a 14th-century Gothic architecture with plants of the Bible, Christian heritage, and native American plants of historical interest, such as boxwood from Dolly Madison and Thomas Jefferson. But, first, he had to deal with a large mass of dirt.

Image result for Olmstead Woods national cathedral washington dc

Florence Brown Bratenahl, wife of the cathedral dean then, worked with Mr. Olmstead to lay out the entire cathedral close to recall a medieval cloister garden on land that once was the home of George Washington’s U. S. Treasury registrar. Mrs. Bratenahl and Mr. Olsmtead concentrated their efforts on historic stonework among boxwood, holly, ivy, oak, rose, and yew, many from remote Piedmont plantations of Virginia.

Related image

Mr. Olmstead designed the Bishop’s Garden as a private retreat out the back door of the Bishop’s House. Later, Mrs. Bratenahl created a larger public entrance through the Norman Court.

Image result for bishop's garden national cathedral washington dc

She meant this garden to be set apart from the rush of the city beyond the walls, its medieval sculpture pieces such as a 9th-century baptismal font . . .

Image result for bishop's garden national cathedral washington dc

. . . and incorporated bas-reliefs providing a calming retreat for visitors as well as for the bishop and other clergy.

Image result for bishop's garden national cathedral washington dc

Old churchyards in England, planted with roses and ancient yews, helped inspire the Bishop’s Garden design, but in England yews can live a thousand years. These yews in the Bishop’s Garden, however, along with boxwood forming the garden’s bones, began to decline in this decidedly un-English sunny site. Adding cliched “insult to injury” was the infamous “Snowmageddon” in the winter of 2010, dumping tons of snow and damaging the garden. Since then, modern box varieties with more vitality but developed to resemble the classic box have replaced the damaged shrubs and borders.

Related image

Stone paths lead to the Shadow House gazebo in one of the “rooms” of the Bishop’s Garden and an enclosed lawn beyond where one may sit to reflect and pray.

A wood bridge walkway . . .

Related image

. . . leads to a five-acre oak and beech forest on Mount St. Alban, called the Olmstead Woods, home to migratory birds flitting among native wildflowers and shrubbery.

Related image

Washington National Cathedral, officially named the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, is the center of the Episcopal Church in Washington and the nation.

Construction began on September 29, 1907, when the foundation stone was laid in the presence of President Theodore Roosevelt and a crowd of more than 20,000, and ended 83 years later when the “final finial” was placed in the presence of President George H. W. Bush in 1990.

“Without faith, we are stained glass windows in the dark.”

Located at 3101 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., in Washington, D.C., Washington National Cathedral is available for paid tours when religious services are not scheduled. The gardens and grounds remain open for free during the day. Call (202) 537-6200.

 

NEXT WEEK: Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Author: invitationtothegarden

Just short of fifty years of holy matrimony, I am blessed to be a mother of two and grandmother of seven. Much of my writing speaks to the culture and tradition of the Deep South, where I spent the first thirty-five years of my life. This past summer of 2017, I began my third – or is it fourth? – writing career, this time as a blogger with WordPress.com. I’ve just completed a memoir of my mother and our relationship, soon to be published. As a poet and essayist, I’ve published both online and in print media. Last year I was awarded the Tom Pier Prize in a Yakima Coffeehouse Poets anthology, and I’ve completed two chapbooks about Old Florida, Oyster Shells and Yellow Clay Road. Recently some of my work appeared in the online version of All We Can Hold and the tenth anniversary anthology from LiTFUSE. I have written two Bible commentaries and a biography of Paul the Apostle, Firebrand for Christ. In 1999 I retired as a feature writer and news reporter for the Yakima Herald-Republic and The Central Washington Catholic, where I was also copy-editor. During my undergraduate years at Florida State University, I majored in English literature and creative writing, and minored in history.

3 thoughts on “Bishop’s Garden at National Cathedral”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s