The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is a prominent Latin Rite Roman Catholic basilica located in Washington, D.C., USA, honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary as Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, the principal Patroness of the USA.
The shrine is the largest Catholic church in the USA, the largest church of any kind in the western hemisphere, the eighth largest church building in the world, and the tallest building in Washington, D.C (the Washington Monument is taller, but is not a habitable building). An estimated one million pilgrims from around the country and the world visit the basilica each year. The basilica is on Michigan Avenue in the northeast quadrant of Washington, on land donated by The Catholic University of America. As of 2013 the rector of the shrine was Monsignor Walter R. Rossi, who possesses a Licentiate of Canon Law.
Construction of this church, notable for its Neo-Byzantine architecture, began in 1920 under Philadelphian contractor John McShain. It opened unfinished in 1959. The Basilica is the Patronal Catholic Church of the United States, honoring the Virgin Mary, under the title Immaculate Conception. The cathedral church of the Archdiocese of Washington is the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, not the Basilica.
The shrine has merited several papal visits, by Pope John Paul II who designated the National Shrine as a Minor Basilica in October 12, 1990 and Pope Benedict XVI, who bestowed the honor of a Golden Rose to the basilica. The Basilica does not have its own parish community, but it serves the adjacent University, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (located down the street), and hosts numerous Holy Masses for various organizations of the Church from across the States.