The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception has become a spiritual home to hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who journey here each year from every state and many foreign lands. Together, they symbolize the Church's catholicity - its universal nature. It is synonymous with the story of 20th-century Catholicism in the United States. Each of the more than 60 chapels and oratories represents some history of the multi-ethnic community that comprises the universal Church. The National Shrine is literally, "America's Patronal Church." When the United States' first Catholic bishop, John Carroll, placed the young nation under Mary's protection, he foretold the faith and devotion of its Catholics through ensuing generations - including those who conceived of and built the National Shrine, and those who visit it and support its ministry today. Every stone and artistic nuance of the Shrine proclaims our nation's relationship with Mary, a spiritual bond formalized in 1847 with Pope Pius IX's proclamation of Mary as "Patroness of the United States" under the title of her Immaculate Conception.
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city was built from scratch, Washington's
regular town plan is easy to grasp. Centered
on Capitol Hill and its governmental
monoliths, the District is divided into four
quadrants - northeast, northwest, southeast
and southwest. Dozens of broad avenues , all
named after states, run diagonally across a
standard grid of streets , meeting up at
monumental traffic circles like Dupont
Circle. North-south streets are numbered,
east-west ones are lettered. There's no J
Street, an intentional slight to early
Supreme Court Justice John Jay, or X, Y or Z
Street. I Street is often written Eye
Street. Be sure to note the relevant
two-letter code in any address (NW, NE, SW,
SE), which shows its quadrant; 1600
Pennsylvania Ave NW is a long way from 1600
Pennsylvania Ave SE.
Once in the
city, stop at the
DC Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center ,
Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania
Ave NW (Mon-Sat 8am-6pm, Sun noon-5pm; tel
202/328-4748), which can help with maps,
tours, bookings and citywide information.
Look for visitor information desks at the
airports and Union Station.
The White House Visitor Information Center
, 1450 Pennsylvania Ave NW (daily
7.30am-4pm; tel 202/208-1631), supplies free
maps and handy guides to museums and
attractions; the most useful is the free
Washington DC Visitors Guide .