(Photo: REUTERS/Molly Riley)
One of the largest churches in North America will soon be charging entry fees for visitors who are there for sight-seeing purposes.
Washington National Cathedral, located in the District of Columbia, announced Monday that it will begin charging an entry fee in January for a "six-month trial period."
David J. Kautter, chair of the Cathedral Chapter, which serves as the governing board for the cathedral, sent a message out via email explaining the details of the future fee system.
"To help supplement our current revenues, beginning in January, adult visitors will be charged $10, while seniors, children, students, veterans, and members of the military will be charged $6," said Kautter.
"The Cathedral will remain open for those visiting for prayer, worship, and pastoral care, and we will also offer free admission on Sundays."
Kautter also explained that the cathedral was financially independent from any government entity or Christian sect, which explained their need "to seek other means of ensuring our sustainability."
"We are called to preserve and restore a building that is more than a century old and to offer programs that have a distinctive impact on our city, our nation, and the world," said Kautter. "To support that work, we must implement this carefully developed fixed-admission policy, and we believe it can be understood by all who have the Cathedral¹s best interests at heart."
A spokesman from the National Cathedral told The Christian Post that they were not providing further comment on the issue.
Known also as the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the National Cathedral has been a prominent fixture on the Washington, D.C., skyline for generations.
Funded exclusively through private donations, the cathedral has been the site of many high-profile events including the funerals of public figures and worship services that included the attendance of U.S. presidents past and present.
The cathedral is frequently visited by tourists, with its gothic style architecture and unique attributes ranging from being the burial place for former President Woodrow Wilson to having a Darth Vader gargoyle.
While neither Kautter nor the cathedral spokesman explained the specific issues that led the cathedral to consider the fee, a possible reason may be the costly repairs to the church due to the 2011 earthquake.
"Most of the damage occurred in the highest parts of the Cathedral. The earthquake's force most strongly affected the pinnacles of the central tower, where stones were literally shaken apart," reads an entry on the cathedral's website.
"In addition, the pinnacles atop many buttresses rotated. Flying buttresses around the apse at the historic east end of the Cathedral (the tall, freestanding ones) suffered cracks where their 'flying' arms meet uprights."
According to Kautter, volunteers and worshippers at the cathedral will be exempted from the entry fee system next year.