The Capital Building

The Apotheosis
Rotunda—The Rotunda is a large, domed, circular room located in the center of the Capitol on the second floor. It has been used for ceremonial functions, such as the unveiling of statues, inaugurations, and the lying in state of distinguished citizens. Its lower walls hold historic paintings, and a frescoed band, or "frieze," depicting significant events in American history rings its upper walls. The Rotunda canopy, a 4664-square-foot fresco painting entitled The Apotheosis of Washington, depicts the first President of the United States rising into the clouds in glory.

The Apotheosis of Washington 
Suspended 180 feet above the Rotunda floor, the fresco covers an area of 4,664 square feet. The figures, up to 15 feet tall, were painted to be intelligible from close up as well as from 180 feet below.

George Washington Rising to the Heavens
Brumidi depicted George Washington rising to the heavens in glory, flanked by female figures representing Liberty and Victory/Fame. A rainbow arches at his feet, and thirteen maidens symbolizing the original states flank the three central figures. (The word "apotheosis" in the title means literally the raising of a person to the rank of a god, or the glorification of a person as an ideal; George Washington was honored as a national icon in the nineteenth century.
Frieze of American History
surrounding the Apotheosis as a belt is a frieze that has many depictions of the History of America from the begining with the landing of DeSoto in the Americas to the 1903 First Flight by the Wright Brothers  One Example to the left is the Reading of the constitution by Thomas Jefferson - John Adams & Benjamin Franklin


Landing of Columbus
By John Vanderlyn
Oil on canvas, 12' x 18'
1846; placed 1847

Surrender of Lord Cornwallis
by John Trumbull
Oil on canvas, 12' x 18'
1820; placed 1826

Discovery of the Mississippi by DeSoto

William H. Powell
Oil on canvas, 12' x 18'
1853; placed 1855
The Columbus Doors, also called the Rogers Doors or Rotunda Doors, stand imposingly at the main entrance to the Capitol, almost 17 feet high and weighing 20,000 pounds. The bronze doors are curved, with a semicircular tympanum above two valves that are divided into four panels each. The details of each scene are finely modeled, and techniques of Renaissance perspective and different levels of relief give each scene a sense of depth.

At the pinnacle is a bust of Columbus, surrounded by rays and oak leaves, signifying his rising to glory. A running border is ornamented with Indian headdresses and emblems of conquest, navigation, the arts and sciences, history, agriculture, and commerce. The four figures symbolizing the continents of Asia, Africa, Europe, and America indicate the entire world's acknowledgement of Columbus's accomplishment. Between the panels are sculpted heads of historians and others whose writings on Columbus's voyage were the bases for the scenes depicted.

The life of Columbus begins at the bottom of the left valve and continues in a clockwise progression, consisting of the following scenes.

The American sculptor Randolph Rogers (1825-1892) was asked by Captain Montgomery C. Meigs, the Supervising Engineer of the Capitol Extensions, to design a set of doors for the entrance to the new House wing from Statuary Hall. As a subject, Rogers suggested the life of Columbus. Rogers's estimate for the project was approved on May 24, 1855, and the artist, who had earlier studied sculpture for 3 years in Italy, went to Rome to work on the models. The commission for the Capitol was only his second large public work.

The model was completed in 1857 and was cast in 1860 by Ferdinand von Miller at one of the finest foundries in the world at the time, the Royal Bavarian Foundry in Munich, Germany. However, because of delays in transportation, the doors did not arrive in Washington to be installed until 1863. In 1871, they were moved to the central east front entrance. They were moved to their present location in 1961 following the extension of the east front of the Capitol.

The doors were most recently cleaned and conserved in 1988. Because of the heavy use of the entrance by visitors to the Capitol, areas of wear and damage must be repaired regularly.

Enrico Causici
National Statuary Hall

Liberty and the Eagle in National Statuary Hall

Placed between 1817 and 1819, this group originally stood above the Speaker's desk when the House of Representatives met in this space. An American eagle stands to Liberty's right, and the scroll in her right hand is the Constitution of the United States. To her left a serpent, the symbol of wisdom, is entwined around a section of a column.



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