Washington National Cathedral prepares for Sept. 11 events

Correction: Earlier versions of this article about repairs to the earthquake-damaged Washington National Cathedral incorrectly attributed the announcement of a donation. The $25,000 gift to the cathedral from the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington was announced by the cathedral, not the archdiocese. This version has been updated.

September 1, 2011

Workers at Washington National Cathedral on Thursday hung heavy-duty black netting beneath the ceiling of the massive nave where thousands are scheduled to gather for Sept. 11 anniversary events, an effort to protect people from any mortar chips that might fall from the earthquake-damaged building.

Also Thursday, Cathedral officials announced that the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington would donate $25,000 to the cathedral, which is the seat of the country’s Episcopal Church but is often used as an interfaith gathering place for major events.

Cathedral officials have said millions of dollars will have to be raised to repair the English Gothic-style building. The damage was primarily to its exterior, including cracked spires and angels and other limestone decorative elements. The nave, or inside worship space, received no major damage, but some thumbnail-size pieces of mortar have been found on the floor, head mason Joe Alonso said.

Although the cathedral hosts high-profile events such as some presidential funerals, its congregation is made up of fewer than 1,000 people. The institution has also been through a recent period of budget-cutting after its endowment plunged.

The cathedral has been closed to the public since the Aug. 23 quake. Hundreds of tourists a day typically visit the majestic structure, and there are usually daily worship services. Services last Sunday were held at the nearby Washington Hebrew Congregation, which lent its space, and will be again this Sunday.

Officials said they have put up a construction fence around the building, from which at least one spire top, or finial, plummeted to the ground during the earthquake.

They also plan to set up temporary covered walkways that guests can use for events marking the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Three days of concerts, talks and worship are planned, starting Friday, Sept. 9, and ending the evening of Sept. 11, when President Obama is scheduled to speak.

Officials said they are hoping to reopen the building for good starting Sept. 9.

“We’re still in the middle of assessing all this damage,” Alonso said.

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