Moses, the Patron Saint of Washington

Moses appears to be the patron saint of Washington. At the Supreme Court, the biblical prophet sits at the center of the structure’s east pediment; he appears in the gallery of statues leading into the court and in the south frieze of the chamber.

Moses rules in the center of the Supreme Court in Washington.
Moses rules in the center of the Supreme Court in Washington.

The Ten Commandments are displayed on the courtroom’s gates and doors. Similarly, the House of Representatives meets in a chamber ringed by 23 marble faces, including those of Hammurabi and Napoleon. Eleven look left; 11 look right. They all look toward Moses in the middle, the only one facing forward. Moses stands in the Library of Congress. He appears in front of the Ronald Reagan Building. Images of his tablets are embedded in the floor of the National Archives.

More than any other figure in the ancient world, Moses embodies the American story. He is the champion of oppressed people; he transforms disparate tribes in a forbidding wilderness into a nation of laws; he is the original proponent of freedom and justice for all. The Pilgrims, a band of Protestant outcasts who felt oppressed by the Church of England, saw themselves as fulfilling the biblical story of the Israelites, the descendants of Abraham who were enslaved in Egypt and freed by Moses, then journeyed toward the Promised Land. When the Pilgrims set sail on the Mayflower in 1620, they carried Bibles emblazoned with Moses leading his people to freedom.

In 1751, the Pennsylvania Assembly chose a quote from the five books of Moses for its statehouse bell – the future Liberty Bell: “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof – Levit. XXV 10.” The writer is the author of America’s Prophet: Moses and the American Story.

Source: Washington Post

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