Of all the churches in Washington DC, St Patrick's Catholic Church is unique because it is considered the oldest church in Washington DC!

St Patrick’s Church: The Oldest Church In Washington DC

Of all the churches in Washington DC, St Patrick’s Catholic Church is unique because it is considered the oldest church in Washington DC!

St Patrick’s Catholic Church

St Patrick’s Catholic Church is the oldest parish in Washington DC, having been founded in 1794. We were fortunate enough to see it while it was decorated for the holidays. However, even without the decorations, it’s a beautiful church with a lot of unique items and elements.

The church was originally built to fulfill the spiritual needs of the many Irish immigrants that were in the area. At the time, many of the Irish immigrants were stonemasons that helped build the White House and the US Capitol. It’s no wonder then, that the church was named after the patron saint of Ireland.

St Patrick's Catholic Church in Washington DC
St Patrick’s Catholic Church

Over the years, the church has had a few updates. The present building is considered the third church building, and was completed in the 1880s. The exterior was constructed in the Victorian Gothic Revival style. And yes, there are gargoyles!

St Patrick's Church has beautiful architecture
St Patrick’s Church has beautiful architecture

Gargoyle outside of St Patrick's Catholic Church

Inside, the church is beautiful…

Inside St Patrick's Catholic Church in Washington DC
Inside St Patrick’s Catholic Church

The sanctuary crucifix was designed in a Celtic style and is 13 feet tall.

13 foot tall crucifix inside St Patrick's Church in Washington DC
13 foot tall crucifix

While we were visiting the church, we had the pleasure of hearing the organ being played. St. Patrick’s was the first of any church in Washington DC to install an organ. A few organs have been installed since then, but the present organ is considered one of the best in the city.

St Patrick's organ
St Patrick’s organ

The statue of the Blessed Mother was made of Carrara marble in France in 1916. The alter that the statue sits on is made of both Vermont and Mexican marble and features Gothic embellishments.

Beautiful marble detailing inside St Patrick's Catholic Church in Washington DC
Beautiful marble detailing

There are four holy water fonts that were personally chosen for the church by Monsignor William T. Russell, the sixth pastor of St. Patrick’s. He selected the genuflecting angels while he was traveling through Europe and he believed they provided the church with a “real touch of Italian art.”

One of four holy water fonts inside St Patrick's Catholic Church
One of four holy water fonts

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Final Thoughts On St Patrick’s Catholic Church

As we walked around DC, it was really nice to stumble upon this beautiful church and thought the architecture and detailing inside were quite extraordinary. We loved the history behind it as well; learning that it was the first church (of any denomination) in DC made it that much more interesting.

Have you been to St Patrick’s Church? Are there any other churches in Washington DC that you’d recommend? We’d love to read your comments below! 🙂

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Of all the churches in Washington DC, St Patrick's Catholic Church is unique because it is considered the oldest church in Washington DC!

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  1. Carol Colborn says:

    We are Catholics and have been to Washington DC. Too bad we did not chance upon this church. Next time, it will be on our list, together with another Smithsonian museum!

  2. My absolute favorite church is the National Cathedral located near the zoo. One of the pretties churches I’ve been in as well as great views of DC.

    1. Thanks Brianna! It’s on my list of things to see the next time I’m in the area 🙂

  3. I love the organ shot! It’s clearly a very beautiful place to sit down and soak up the atmosphere and if it has gargoyles, it definitely gets extra travel awesomeness points 🙂

  4. I lived in DC for 5+ years, and I never stepped a foot inside St. Patrick’s! (Nor did I know it was the oldest church in DC, so thanks :-)) I usually took visitors to the National Cathedral (Episcopalian) or St. Matthew’s Cathedral (Catholic). DC is a great city to visit… Hope you enjoyed it!

    1. Oh! I’ll try and visit those the next time I’m in the area. Thanks for the tip Brianne 🙂

  5. What a gorgeous church and I have not been there. Would love to hear the pipe organ being played as well ;). Glad you enjoyed.

    1. Oh Melody, it was wonderful! I think you’d really enjoy it 🙂

  6. The church looks nice! Typically when I think about visiting churches my mind wanders more to Europe, but it seems like there are a few to see at home as well 🙂

  7. Confession: I’ve never been to Washington, much less St Patrick’s Church there. I keep visiting New York and never getting any further, but when I finally make it to DC at least I’ll know where the first church is.

    1. New York is awesome, so I don’t blame you lol But you should definitely check out DC as well.

  8. Nice, it is always strange somehow to see old style churches that are not as old as the ones we see in europe. CHurch always evoques a sense of really old (like centuries old) to me but plenty of beautiful churches were built much after in more modern times

    1. That’s very true Mar. It’s crazy to think how relatively young the churches are in the US compared to most of Europe.

  9. That’s so cool! I wish I had known about this church when I went to DC. I’ll have to check it out next time I find myself in town! There’s just so much rich history in DC and on the east coast, it’s amazing.

  10. Just back from Ash Wednesday Mass there… standing room only from the 1st rows to the back entrance. Never saw it so crowded and I go there frequently 🙂 Favorite Church in DC! If you ever get a chance, visit St. Mary’s in Annapolis. Probably the nicest church I’ve ever been in.

    1. Hi David! Thanks so much for your comment and also for the tip on St. Mary’s. I’ll be sure to check it out! 🙂

  11. I drive by- or walk by- this edifice often. And am amazed at the incongruity of it among the modern, boring building that surround it.

  12. Pat Connolly says:

    I am a former student of the now defunct Saint Patrick’s Academy. I went to a reunion at Saint Patrick’s Church and was amazed at the renovations to the Church. Why was that done? The original design was spiritually magnificent. What possess anyone to change this? Please advise. Thank you.

    1. I really couldn’t say why they’ve done what they have.

    2. Ann suziedelis says:

      Thank you, Pat! I can only imagine that all those going on and on about how beautiful it is now, never saw it before. I was a daily Communicant there in the ‘80s, walking over from my office at lunchtime. The day I saw the much awaited supposed “improvements” was the last day I entered the place. Very, very sad.

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