D.C. quake causes millions of dollars in damage to National Cathedral

Officials with the National Cathedral said that Tuesday’s earthquake left millions of dollars in damage to the building’s dramatic Gothic exterior, though engineers said there were no structural problems.

At a news conference Wednesday, Dean Samuel Lloyd said a 3,000-person interfaith service that was scheduled for Saturday to mark the opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial would be moved to the National Shrine as engineers made final determinations about how to stabilize the massive, cracked spires that stand 300 feet above ground.


A pinnacle is precariously perched atop the Washington National Cathedral. (NIKKI KAHN/THE WASHINGTON POST)

In Tuesday’s quake, three of the four spires on the main tower had cracked off and a few other angels and spires elsewhere on the cathedral appeared broken, so it wasn’t clear how many items had been harmed. However, there are nearly 700 limestone angels alone on the cathedral’s exterior.

The cathedral, which typically hosts 300 tourists a day this time of year and holds three daily worship services, is closed at least until Saturday.


An angel, dislodged from the southwest pinnacle of the "Gloria in Excelsis" or central tower, lies on the roof of the Washington National Cathedral following a 5.8-magnitude earthquake which rumbled through Washington on Aug. 24. (NIKKI KAHN/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Earlier in the day, Alonso stood on the roof of the cathedral he’s tended for nearly 30 years and said he was reeling to see the roof littered with cracked angels, toppled spires and off-kilter pillars, 300 feet above the street.


A worker photographs rubble atop the National Cathedral following Tuesday's earthquake. (COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL CATHEDRAL)

Also surveying the damage on the roof this morning was Anthony Segreti, a longtime architect on the building. Looking at the broken spires, he said repairing things so high up would be “one heck of a logistics problem.”

The cathedral’s insurance did not include earthquakes.

This post has been updated since it was first published.

Michelle Boorstein is the Post’s religion reporter, where she reports on the busy marketplace of American religion.

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