Adele Cutts Douglas and Saint Aloysius Church
A view of the Altar from the balcony

      St. Aloysius Church is located at 900 North Capitol St., NW, in Washington, D.C. has been in use since 1859 under the sponsorship of the Jesuit order. It is named after St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a young Italian Jesuit, who gave his life at the age of 23 caring for victims of the plague in Rome in 1581.

      The New York Times, in describing the dedication of the Church mentions that President James Buchanan and several Cabinet members were present.
Jesuit Father Benedict Sestini, who taught Mathematics at Georgetown University at the time, was the church’s architect. The brilliant painting above the main altar, showing Aloysius Gonzaga receiving his first Holy Communion from the hands of Cardinal (St.) Charles Borromeo, was the work of the noted Constantine Brumidi, painter of the frescoes on the inside of the U.S. Capitol dome. 

      Brumidi was a personal friend of Father Sestini and painted him and the pastor, Father Bernadine Wiget, as kneeling in the Communion scene. The model for St. Aloysius’ mother was parishioner Adele Cutts Douglas, wife of Stephen Douglas, the “Little Giant” who was Abraham Lincoln’s rival in the historic debates of 1858 and the presidential campaign of 1860. 

      On September 9, 1862, three years after the dedication and in the dark days of the Civil War, Father Wiget received a requisition from the District of  Columbia’s military governor to use the Church as a military hospital. The Pastor made a counter-proposal to build a hospital on “K” Street just north of the church according to the requirements of the military governor and according to his time-frame. Parishioners constructed a 250-bed hospital within eight days. In appreciation, the hospital was named St. Aloysius to honor the Church.