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Monday, November 21, 2016

The Washington Monument: Laus Deo

From The Founders, Religion and Government:

The Washington Monument 
Part Two of Three
Laus Deo

As previously noted, the Washington monument is topped with a massive capstone. But what sits on the capstone will be of interest to our readers. It is a small aluminum cap measuring less than nine inches. On each of the four sides are inscriptions. On the north face are words commemorating the laying of the capstone. On the west side are the dates of the laying of the cornerstone, when the height reached 152 feet, and the laying of the capstone. On the south face are the names of men who helped complete the project including Lt. Colonel Casey.

But it is the east side which many may find the most interesting, and which has caused the most controversy. On that side we find but two words: Laus Deo, which translates Praise be to God. Each morning, as the sun rises on our nation's capital, the first light of the day hits the aluminum cap which praises the Lord.

When constructed it was not thought that the cap would be seen by human eyes, which given the flight restrictions in D.C. is pretty much the case. So a copy of the cap was placed on display by the National Park Service in the observation room near the top of the monument. The controversy came nearly ten years ago when the cap was rotated so the Laus Deo was against the wall and not visible to visitors, an error the NPS claimed. Public outcry soon set it to right, and this author has personally seen those words back on display.

We would like to note that while aluminum might seem an odd choice to us today since it is so associated with the wrapping up of leftovers, this has not always been the case. Aluminum was at one time considered a metal on a par with gold or silver. Thus the greatest monument to the Father of Our Country is crowned with the 19th century equivalent to gold and with a prayer of praise to God.

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