BNHA Basilica of the Assumption (Baltimore Basilica)


Baltimore City Landmark

National Historic Landmark

National Register of Historic Places

Interpretive Framework

Shaping a Monumental City: The City’s Growth in the 20th Century

Star Attractions

Charles Street Byway

Cultural Walk

Resource Type

Points of Interest

401 Cathedral St

Baltimore, Maryland 21201

A papal decree in 1789 appointed John Carroll as the first Catholic Bishop in the new United States and instructed him to build a fitting cathedral. Archbishop Carroll in turn commissioned English-born architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe (architect of the U.S. Capitol) to design it. Considered Latrobe’s masterpiece, the Basilica has been called “North America’s most beautiful church” by architectural historian Nicholas Pevsner and is one of the finest examples of neoclassical architecture in the world.

Construction on the cathedral began in 1806. The design was grand in conception and was intended to celebrate the new freedom of the Catholic Church, long suppressed by the Church of England, in a new nation that had just won its Revolutionary War. The jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Baltimore at that time extended to all Roman Catholics in what is now the continental United States west to the Mississippi, as well as the West Indies. The basilica, dedicated in 1821, served as the cathedral of the Archdiocese until 1959, when the Cathedral of Mary our Queen opened further north on Charles Street. An extensive renovation of the basilica, restoring it to its original grandeur, was completed in 2006.