Otherwise known as the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Baltimore Basilica is historically the first Roman Catholic cathedral built in the United States as well as a continuously practicing house of faith and community. The building not only represents an institution of the Catholic church and a national shrine to the Virgin Mary but it is also a fabulous and everlastingly significant site lauding the American freedom of religion.
The history of Baltimore is forever linked to the freedom of religion. Being one of the first predominately Catholic cities in the original colonies, Baltimore experienced great prejudice in the early years of the colonies. Over time, however, tolerance grew and Baltimore became a haven for practicing Catholics. History shows it as gaining the first official American Diocese, instituted by Pope Pius VI in 1789, under the guidance of the first American Superior, Father John Carroll. The Baltimore Basilica was built soon after in beauty and grandeur.
Though other cathedrals existed in the continental United States before the building of the Baltimore Basilica, they were not part of the founded American colonies at the time and were thus not considered American cathedrals. The Baltimore Basilica was consecrated in 1821, its building begun in 1806 under the architectural direction of "The Father of American Architecture," Benjamin Henry Latrobe, architect of the United States Capitol among others.
Every year, thousands of travelers visit the Baltimore Basilica to worship and tour its magnificent grounds. Guided tours are offered although you may also visit on your own to see the National Shrine, the museum on site, and the Pope John Paul II Prayer Garden, a wonderfully peaceful and relaxing place of spiritual renewal. The Basilica is open daily from 8:30 am-4:30 pm for touring and guided tours are available weekdays at 9 am, 11 am, and 1 pm. Guided tours include the undercroft and upper church, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Chapel, Crypt, Museum, and the Pope John Paul II Prayer Garden.