Baltimore Basilica visitors have the chance to view one of the country's most historic and beautiful cathedrals. Built between the years of 1806 and 1821, the Basilica of the Assumption, as the cathedral is more formerly known, is actually the oldest cathedral in the United States. Its attractive neoclassical design adheres to the plans of architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who is credited as being the "Father of American Architecture," and thanks to a two-year, multi-million dollar renovation, the interior has been restored to its original glory. Visitors are encouraged to take a tour of the light-flooded, sparkling interior when stopping for a look. For Catholics, aligning a visit with a Baltimore Basilica Mass can be an especially attractive endeavor.
The Baltimore Basilica is much more than a renowned National Historic Landmark. It also serves as a National Shrine and a Marian Shrine, as well as a Minor Basilica within the Catholic ranks. While it is Catholic based, the Basilica of the Assumption welcomes all visitors, which led Pope John Paul II to label it as "the worldwide symbol of religious freedom." For those who are wishing to add a Cathedral visit to their Baltimore itineraries, there will be numerous opportunities to enjoy either a tour or a Mass. Before or after you take a tour or partake in a Mass, you might also check out some of the other great attractions in the immediate area, including the Walters Art Museum and the Washington Monument.
The tours of the Basilica of the Assumption can be guided or independent. For those who opt to take a guided tour, it is customary to leave a small donation of at least a couple of dollars per person. Groups of ten or more must make tour reservations. The tours last around 45 minutes, and they offer insight into the church's neoclassical exterior, its Latin cross basilica plan, and its lovely dome. Tour guests will also get to see the crypt and visit the onsite museum. As for tour times, the guided tours are offered at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., and 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with the same hours generally applying to the Saturday tours. Special church events, such as weddings and baptisms, can affect the Saturday tours from time to time. On Sundays, the guided tours start at noon and are only for walk up visitors.
As for anyone who is hoping to add a Baltimore Basilica Mass to their list of things to do, regular masses are offered at 7:30 a.m. and 12:10 p.m. Monday through Friday, and at 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Sunday masses include a 7:30 a.m. ceremony, a 9 a.m. version in Latin, and a 10:45 service in the Choir. Visitors can also attend a 4 p.m. Mass on Sundays, as well as a 5:30 p.m. service. A special Baltimore Basilica Mass can be arranged by groups who are interested in having their own service. These groups must provide their own clergy, and there is an option to have said clergy co-celebrate the daily 12:10 p.m. Mass.
It should be noted that during the Baltimore Basilica renovation process, the original 24 skylights in the dome were uncovered, allowing natural light to pour in during the day. Visitors will notice the light colors of the walls and the marble floors on a tour of the interior, as they also lend to the bright and airy feel. This renowned Baltimore attraction is one of the brightest and cheeriest cathedrals on the planet, its formerly dark and solemn interior a thing of the past.