Professor Bridge Baltimore Basilica Study

Ashleigh E. Jubinski
Arch 205 S2
November 12, 2017
Professor Bridge
Baltimore Basilica Study
HISTORY: The Baltimore Basilica was constructed from 1806 until 1821. It was known as the
first great metropolitan cathedral, which was constructed after the adoption of the U.S
Constitution. There were two people who aided in molding the cathedral into what it is today.
The first person was John Carroll, who was the first bishop and the cousin of Charles Carroll,
one of the people who signed The Declaration of Independence. The second person was
Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the “Father of American Architecture” and the architect of the capitol
(for Thomas Jefferson). The church leaders, “wanted to build a cathedral to celebrate their newly
acquired right to publicly worship”. The Style of the cathedral was, “the popular Gothic Revival
and adopted the neoclassical (romantic classicism) architecture of the new federal city in
Washington”. Bishop Carroll, he “wanted an architectural symbol for the Catholic Church in this
new republic that was uniquely considered ‘American’” (Americas First Cathedral).
MASS/SIZE/SCALE: To put it in perspective, “When the Cathedral was first constructed, the
only building that could compete with it in size, scale, and architectural sophistication was the
United States Capitol” (Americas First Cathedral). The Basilica was massive for its time, but
compared to many modern buildings, it is average, but still large for a religious structure.
SHAPE: The Exteriors main facade is a “classical Greek portico with Ionic columns arranged in
double hexastyle pattern, immediately behind which rise a pair of cylindrical towers” and its
interior is, “…occupied by a massive dome at the crossing of the Latin cross plan, creating a
centralizing effect which contrasts the exterior impression of a linear or oblong building”
PROPORTION: It is comparative to the U.S Capitol
RHYTHM/REPETITION: There is both rhythm and repetition throughout the Cathedral due to
it being symmetrical. The Exterior has the columns and cupola, while the interior has the
windows, arches, the pews, which create the repetition from within. The axis from the entrance
to the altar along with the secondary axis established by the other walkways sets up a rhythm.
This rhythm is used in part with the pews.
LIGHT: The light enters from all around the Basilica, but it may be found in the dome, which
has, “24 half-visible skylights” (Wikipedia). This light acts as a more natural source, which
enables there to be less money and energy used towards lighting the Basilica. The natural light
creates an emotion and experience compared to the more artificial source.
ARTICULATION: The dome articulates various
forms of geometry painted or carved within it. The dome also articulates its own sense of
hierarchy even without the designs on it.
STRUCTURE: The plan unites two distinct elements: a longitudinal axis and a domed space.
The domed space allows for light to enter.
MATERIAL: The exterior walls are said to be constructed of silver-gray gneiss quarried from
the Ellicott City Granodiorite.
COMPARISON: The Cathedral of Notre Dame is Gothic style architecture and compares to the
Basilica due to its high ceilings and ability to let light in. Both have a central axis defined by the
main walkway to the altar and they both focus on a more spatial form of architecture, which
enables there to be a lot of people in and out. The Chartres Cathedral is also depicted the same
way with high ceilings and flying buttresses.
Work Cited:
“Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Baltimore).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 July 2017,
“Gneiss.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 Nov. 2017,
“History of the Basilica.” Americas First Cathedral,–web-sized.jpg.

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