Earthquake damages Washington National Cathedral

Published August 24, 2011

An earthquake that struck in central Virginia Aug. 23 has damaged the central tower of Washington National Cathedral in the U.S. capital. Photo: Jason Maehl/Shutterstock

New York – An unusual magnitude 5.8 earthquake that struck in central Virginia on the afternoon of Aug. 23 significantly damaged the central tower of Washington National Cathedral in the U.S. capital, about 84 miles northeast of the epicenter.
Cathedral spokesman Richard Weinberg told Episcopal News Service by phone that the finials or capstones fell off three of the four corner spires of the central tower, which was completed in the 1960s and restored in the 1990s after lightning damage. There were also cracks in some of the flying buttresses that support the cathedral, but there appeared to be no damage to the stained-glass windows.

The cathedral, an Episcopal church that hosts many national religious events, was evacuated, said Weinberg, who estimated that about 300 people, including staff, were in the building when the quake occurred. No one was hurt. The cathedral was closed for the rest of the day as engineers and stonemasons assessed the building, Episcopal News Service reports.

Washington National Cathedral is the sixth-largest cathedral in the world and the second-largest in the United States. It was constructed between 1907 and 1990 on Mount St. Alban, in the northwest part of the city.

Meanwhile, at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Culpeper, Virginia, the quake separated the narthex (lobby) from the nave (the main body of the church) and the building has been condemned, according to Emily Cherry, communications officer for the Richmond-based Diocese of Virginia. No one was injured. The congregation will temporarily worship in the parish hall.

The quake was felt within a 350-miles radius of the epicenter at Mineral, Virginia. No major damage or injuries were reported.


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