The flag-draped coffin of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist will be carried up the long marble stairs to the Supreme Court's main entrance this morning as two days of memorial observances begin.

After a brief prayer service at the court at 10 a.m., the public may pay respects to the chief justice as his body lies in repose at the court from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to noon tomorrow.

Ceremonies will conclude with the chief justice's burial at Arlington National Cemetery tomorrow afternoon, which will be private. Rehnquist, 80, died of thyroid cancer Saturday at his home in Arlington.

Rehnquist's family was in meetings yesterday with officials from the Supreme Court and the Archdiocese of Washington, finalizing the arrangements for the funeral and burial. The family toured St. Matthew's Cathedral in Northwest Washington, where a service will be held at 2 p.m. tomorrow.

Officials have said the funeral is for friends and family.

Rehnquist belonged to a Lutheran church in Bethesda, but the family requested that the funeral be held at St. Matthew's. A spokeswoman for the archdiocese has said that the request apparently was based on such factors as size and availability. The service will be Lutheran, a Supreme Court spokeswoman said.

Details about speakers and expected guests at the funeral were not available yesterday.

Justice William J. Brennan Jr.'s funeral also was held at St. Matthew's, in July 1997, after his coffin lay in the Supreme Court's Great Hall.

Construction began on St. Matthew's in 1893, and the first Mass there was in 1895. Its sanctuary seats about 2,000 and contains the marble cathedra, or seat, of the archbishop of Washington. The church has undergone an $8 million restoration in recent years, including the cleaning and repair of two large mosaics inside and the recovering of its copper dome.

St. Matthew's was the site of the funeral Mass for President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 25, 1963. Pope John Paul II addressed 1,500 area priests there in October 1979 during a visit to Washington. The funerals of Cardinal James A. Hickey and Cardinal Patrick A. O'Boyle also were at St. Matthew's, on Rhode Island Avenue just east of Connecticut Avenue.

District police said yesterday that they had not been informed of any special traffic or security needs for the various services, Sgt. Joe Gentile said. The Supreme Court has its own police force.

Rehnquist was a World War II veteran, entitling him to burial at Arlington. His wife, Natalie Cornell Rehnquist, was buried there in 1991.

Rehnquist's two immediate predecessors, Warren E. Burger and Earl Warren, also lay in repose in the Supreme Court building before they were laid to rest at Arlington.

Staff writers Charles Lane and Martin Weil contributed to this report.