Cover image for Myths in stone : religious dimensions of Washington, D.C.
Myths in stone : religious dimensions of Washington, D.C.
Meyer, Jeffrey F.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xi, 343 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1450 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BL2527.W18 M49 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Washington, D.C., is a city of powerful symbols--from the dominance of the Capitol dome and Washington Monument to the authority of the Smithsonian. This book takes us on a fascinating and informative tour of the nation's capital as Jeffrey F. Meyer unravels the complex symbolism of the city and explores its meaning for our national consciousness. Meyer finds that mythic and religious themes pervade the capital--in its original planning, in its monumental architecture, and in the ritualized events that have taken place over the 200 years the city has been the repository for the symbolism of the nation.

As Meyer tours the city's famous axial layout, he discusses many historical figures and events, compares Washington to other great cities of the world such as Beijing and Berlin, and discusses the meaning and history of its architecture and many works of art. Treating Washington, D.C., as a complex religious center, Meyer finds that the city functions as a unifying element in American consciousness. This book will change the way we look at Washington, D.C., and provide a provocative new look at the meaning of religion in America today. It will also be a valuable companion for those traveling to this city that was envisioned from its inception as the center of the world.

Author Notes

Jeffrey F. Meyer is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. He is the author of The Dragons of Tiananmen: Beijing as a Sacred City (1991).

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

While Washington, D.C., is clearly the axis mundi of political power, religion professor Jeffrey F. Meyer believes it is also a national symbol of America's religious consciousness. In Myths in Stone: Religious Dimensions of Washington, D.C., Meyer takes readers on a tour of the nation's capital, discussing the sacred aspects of sites such as the Capitol Building, the Washington Memorial, the White House and Arlington Cemetery. This is a detailed, well argued, impeccably researched study that will be of interest to both the spiritual traveler and the professional historian. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Myths in Stone is a set of essays on the monumental buildings that Meyer (Univ. of North Carolina) encounters as he takes the reader on an interpretive tour of, or pilgrimage around, the Mall in Washington, DC. The chapters deal successively with structures such as the Smithsonian and the Lincoln Memorial, as well as the Mall itself and the art works in the Capitol. Meyer's basic thesis is that the "civil religion" first explored by Robert Bellah in the 1960s can be encountered in its emergent forms and disputed representations in these structures and collections, and can be interpreted with reference variously to the history of art and architecture, American political and social history, and the "history of religions" method utilized by Catherine Albanese in her Sons of the Fathers (CH, Jul'77). Although not too much here is original in the sense of being derived from previously untouched archival sources, the author gracefully blends insights from work in these various disciplines with his own first-hand observations of the Mall and its monuments, in what constitute a series of reflective essays or scholarly meditations. As such, it is highly suitable for undergraduate reading and as excellent preparation for a visit to the nation's capital. General readers; all academic levels. P. W. Williams Miami University

Table of Contents

Illustrationsp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
Part I The Axis of Powerp. 13
Reflections: On Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White Housep. 15
Chapter 1 City at the Center of the Worldp. 21
Chapter 2 Pennsylvania Avenue and Powerp. 51
Chapter 3 A """"national Church"""" and Its Holy Scripturesp. 76
Part II The Axis of Enlightenmentp. 99
Reflections: From the White House to the Jefferson Memorialp. 101
Chapter 4 The White House and Presidential Religionp. 107
Chapter 5 Enigma Variationsp. 131
Chapter 6 Image of Enlightenment Faithp. 160
Part III The Axis of Memoryp. 187
Reflections: From Arlington Cemetery to the Capitolp. 189
Chapter 7 The Lincoln Memorial and the Honored Deadp. 195
Chapter 8 The Changing Meaning of the National Mallp. 223
Chapter 9 Artists' Voicesp. 247
Notesp. 283
Bibliographyp. 313
Indexp. 325