The View from the Top

On Friday I was permitted to go up into the Clerestory level of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception here in Washington. I brought my camera and took some unique photos of the Basilica. I am posting a few of them here but you can see the rest of what I took here: Clerestory Views.  I think they turned out pretty well considering that very few lights were on in the Basilica. I had to open the lens wide and give lengthy exposure to each shot but in the end I think they turned out well. Thanks to TJ Dhanagom and Msgr. Rossi for the privilege of ascending to the clerestory.

Basilica High Altar
Nave from the Northwest Clerestory
Great Organ in the Choir Loft

14 Replies to “The View from the Top”

  1. Lovely! May I make a suggestion? Learn to control your ISO setting — it increases the “sensitivity” to light, so you won’t need as long an exposure. The higher it is, the more “sensitive” it is. For this setting I would use 400 or 800.

    1. Thank you for this. I have not become wholly adjusted to Digital cameras. In the old days I had a light meter built in and was also more aware of the ISO since I routinely used 400 and 800 film. They even came out with 1000 film but it did not have the richness of 800 and 400.

  2. Wonderful photos. The organ, in particular, looks a very fine instrument. I would love to try it out but it is too far to come from Australia.

      1. John,
        The National Shrine houses 4 pipe organs; Monsignor’s photo is of the Great South Gallery organ. This massive instrument is a 4-manual, 160-rank organ, built in 1964 by the now-defunct firm of M.P. Moller, Inc. It has been rebuilt and expanded by the firm of Goulding and Wood, in Indianapolis, Indian,US.
        The Basilica’s gift shop has some fine CDs of the instrument, and its smaller relatives. Go to, for information on the recordings. The Basilica acoustics will astound you.


        John Lombardi
        Pipe Organ Theorist

  3. I took pictures of the Basilica too but have never seen these beautiful photos. I love the Basilica. I have not seen any place more beautiful. I always tried to visit and attend mass there on Christmas Day. I have to come closer to the Great Organ next time. I’m clueless of the organ’s structure, but I really love the music.

  4. I visited the Basilica two years ago for the first time and had to sit down after the tour, so overwhelmed was I by the beauty. Thank you, Monsignor for this lovely reminder of what I believe to be a little glimpse of heaven.

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