The Washington Monument in Washington DC was built to commemorate George Washington the first President of the United States of America. At 170m it is the tallest obelisk in the world. The Monument attracts over half a million visitors each year.
The Washington National Monument Society was formed in 1832 on the anniversary of the birth of George Washington. Following a period of fundraising a competition was held in 1836 to design a memorial. The cornerstone of the Monument was laid on July 4th 1848. Donations ran out and construction stopped in 1854. By then the monument had reached a height of 46m.
Requests were made for donations in either money or memorial stones to help in the building and the decoration of the monument. Almost 200 memorial stones were donated from all over the United States and from countries around the world. Pope Pius IX donated a marble stone one metre long by half metre high. It came from the ruins of the Temple of Concord in Rome which had been built in 366 BC. The stone was engraved with the words ‘FROM ROME’ and arrived in Washington DC in October 1853.
The anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic ‘Know-Nothing Party’ objected to the stone being used in the Monument. On the night of March 6th 1854 nine members of the party broke into the grounds of the Washington Monument. They stole the stone and dumped it in the Potomac River. Following the American Civil War building recommenced in 1877 on the Washington Monument. It was finally completed and was opened to the public on October 9th 1888.
The memorial stones, other than the ‘Popes Stone’, were built into the east and west interior walls so that they can be easily viewed by people ascending the monument. One hundred and twenty eight years after the first stone had disappeared, the Vatican during the reign of Pope John Paul II, donated another stone to replace the first. It was placed in the interior of the west wall of the Washington Monument 103m above ground level in 1982. The inscription on the stone reads ‘A ROMA AMERICAE’ (Rome to America).
The Washington Monument in Washington DC was dedicated in the year 1885 On This Day.