Well it took long enough. George Washington had been dead for more than three decades before a society was founded to build a monument to his honor in the city which bore his name. In 1832, the centenary of the birth of Washington, the Washington National Monument Society was founded. The Society began raising funds and in 1836 announced a competition for the design of the monument. The winning design by Robert Mills envisioned an obelisk arising from a circular colonnade. The price tag was an astronomical, for the time, one million dollars. Work on the obelisk finally began in 1848. Nations around the world were invited to contribute blocks of marble for the monument.
On December 24, 1851, the American Charge d’ Affairs in Rome, Lewis Cass, Jr., wrote to the Society, “I have the honor to inform you that I have been apprized by His Holiness the Pope. . . of his intention to contribute a block of marble toward the erection of the national monument to the memory of Washington. The block was taken from the ruins of the ancient Temple of Peace, adjoining the palace of the Caesars, and is to receive the inscription of ‘Rome to America.” No doubt Pope Pius IX recalled that George Washington had ever been a friend to Catholics.
On October 20, 1853, the marble block from the Pope arrived in Washington. Read the rest of this entry »