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Earthquake damage at National Cathedral

Earthquake damage at National Cathedral

[UPDATED with statement by the Presiding Bishop] The National Cathedral sustained some structural damage today because of the earthquake centered near Richmond, VA this afternoon. The Dean of the Cathedral has released the following statement:

The highest elevated point of Washington, D.C., the “Gloria in Excelsis” central tower of Washington National Cathedral, sustained significant damage in the 5.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Tuesday afternoon. Mason Foreman Joe Alonso is currently assessing the damage to the Cathedral building with the help of other Cathedral stonemasons and structural engineers.

Three of four pinnacles (corner spires) on the central tower have been damaged. Specifically, three “finials” (capstones shaped like fleurs-de-lys) have fallen from them, with more significant damage to two of the pinnacles. Similar decorative elements on the Cathedral’s exterior also appear to be damaged. Cracks have appeared in the flying buttresses around the apse at the Cathedral’s east end, the first portion of the building to be constructed, but the buttresses supporting the central tower seem to be sound.

No individuals were injured either within the Cathedral or on its grounds. Despite some cracks on upper floors in the interior, no damage to the stained-glass windows has been reported. The building has been closed to visitors until further notice.

“The Cathedral structure was damaged in today’s earthquake,” said Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III, “but we are thankful that no injuries have occurred. Our prayers go out now for all those up and down the East Coast who have been similarly affected by this rare event. The National Cathedral cannot be more grateful now for the National Cathedral Association (NCA), the nationwide network of supporters that raised funds to build this edifice beginning in the 1890s. We urge all friends of this spiritual home for the nation to visit our website,, to learn more about the damage and upcoming efforts to make repairs.”

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There’s a photo of the damage to the tower here.

And the National Cathedral’s twitter stream has links to photos of other damage.

UPDATE: The Presiding Bishop has released the following statement:

[August 23, 2011] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has commented on today’s earthquake and damage to Washington National Cathedral:

The earthquake which struck the east coast today is a reminder of the continuing evolution of this planet, “this fragile earth, our island home.” It is also a reminder of how interconnected we are. The quake damaged Washington National Cathedral and reminded many Episcopalians of the quakes that struck the Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand during the last year. We can give thanks that no one was killed or seriously injured in this earthquake. I urge your prayers for all who visit, learn, and worship in the Episcopal Church’s and the nation’s central cathedral, as the damage is evaluated and repairs begin. This worship space has been the site for presidential inaugural services and funerals, prayer services following national tragedies, and continues to be a house of prayer for all people.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church


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