About the Cathedral Parish

The Cathedral church and parish is named for Saint Matthew the Apostle, the patron saint of civil servants, recognizing all those who serve in the municipal, state, and national governments and the many international organizations located in the metropolitan area. The church is the seat or cathedra of the Archbishop of Washington. As the Mother Church of the archdiocese, it plays a major role in the Catholic life of the nation’s capital.


The funeral Mass for President John F. Kennedy was celebrated in the Cathedral on November 25, 1963 with many international heads of state and governments in attendance. Mother Teresa visited the Cathedral in 1974. In 1979, Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in the Cathedral during his visit to the United States. Pope Francis presided at a Midday Prayer Service at the Cathedral with the U. S. Bishops during his visit to the United States in 2015. Annually, on the Sunday before the first Monday in October when the Supreme Court of the United States begins its regular term, a special Mass is celebrated praying for the Holy Spirit to guide all those who are members of the legal profession. Known as the "Red Mass" in reference to the vestment color, the Supreme Court justices, members of Congress, the President's Cabinet, diplomatic corps, local municipal, state and national government leaders, and sometimes the President of the United States join the celebration. 

Our Mission

We, the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle, Mother Church of the Archdiocese of Washington, are a diverse and multi-cultural parish in our nation’s capital under the care of our Archbishop.

As a Christian community of faith, we seek to become closer to God through worship, prayer, sacraments, spiritual formation, and fellowship. Strengthened by this, we go forth proclaiming the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus and serving our brothers and sisters with our time, talents, and treasure. Through our evangelization in word and deed, we strive to be the light of the world as proclaimed by Saint Matthew.

Our History

Established in 1840, the parish church originally was located at 15th and H Streets, N.W. Construction of the present church began in 1893 under the direction of Monsignor Thomas Sim Lee. The first Mass was celebrated on June 2, 1895. The church was formally dedicated in 1913 and designated a cathedral in 1939 when the Archdiocese of Washington was established. Read more about our history.

Our House of Worship

The Cathedral is one of the most impressive houses of worship in the United States. Designed by noted New York architect C. Grant La Farge, the Cathedral has been cited “as [having] one of the most beautiful church interiors of modern times.” Its walls are laden with shimmering mosaics suggestive of those found in the renowned churches of Ravenna, Italy. The Cathedral is in the form of a Latin cross 155 feet long and 136 feet wide at the transepts. The interior of the dome rises 190 feet. The body of the Cathedral seats about 1,000 persons You are invited to take to visual tour of the Cathedral in words and photos. Take a virtual tour of the Cathedral.

Our Patron Saint

St. Matthew is one of the four evangelists of the New Testament gospels. In iconography, he is symbolically represented as a human or angel. In the New Testament, he is described as a tax collector, an official of the local Jewish and Roman governments. Because of this public office, Matthew is designated by the Church as the patron saint of civil servants. Read more about our patron saint.