LATROBE, Benjamin Henry
(b. 1764, Fulneck, England, d. 1820, New Orleans))

General view

1806-21
Photo
Basilica, Baltimore

The Baltimore Basilica (full name: National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) was the first Roman Catholic cathedral built in the United States, and was among the first major religious buildings constructed in the nation after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. As a co-cathedral, it is one of the seats of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland. It was consecrated in 1821. Additionally it is a parish church (ranked minor basilica) and national shrine. It is considered the masterpiece of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the "Father of American Architecture".

For the church Latrobe prepared two designs in both Gothic and "Roman" styles, preference finally being given to the latter in 1804. Sobriety and logical coherence are the main characteristics of the building, which in spite of its simplicity, radiates a sense of elevated dignity. This is largely due to its Ionic portico and the shallow stone dome, which is reminiscent of the Pantheon and rises above the crossing.

In spite of Latrobe's new additive approach to the design, the model for the church is clearly Jacques-Germain Soufflot's Sainte-Geneviève in Paris.




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