The Washington Monument

*Circulated around the internet and emails in the early 2000’s. I have tried to do due diligence and this and the 2007 update following is true as best can be researched.


On the aluminum cap, atop the Washington Monument in Washington DC, are displayed two words: Laus Deo.

No one can see these words. In fact, most visitors to the monument are totally unaware they are even there and for that matter, probably couldn’t care less. Once you know Laus Deo’s history, you will want to share this with everyone you know. I do.

But these words have been there for many years; they are 555 feet, 5.125 inches high, perched atop the monument, facing skyward to the Father of our nation, overlooking the 69 square miles which comprise the District of Columbia, capital of the United States of America.

Laus Deo! Two seemingly insignificant, un-noticed words. Out of sight and, one might think, out of mind, but very meaningfully placed at the highest point over what is the most powerful city in the most successful nation in the world.

So, what do those two words, in Latin, comprised of just four syllables and only seven letters, possibly mean? Very simply, they say “Praise be to God!” [Laus is Praise be and Deo means God] Though construction of this giant obelisk began in 1848, when James Polk was President of the United States, it was not until 1888 that the monument was inaugurated and opened to the public. It took twenty five years to finally cap the memorial with a tribute to the Father of our nation, “Laus Deo….Praise be to God!”

From atop this magnificent granite and marble structure, visitors may take in the beautiful panoramic view of the city with its division into four major segments. From that vantage point. one can also easily see the original plan of the designer, Pierre Charles l’Enfant…a perfect cross imposed upon the landscape, with the White House to the north. The Jefferson Memorial is to the south, the Capitol to the east and the Lincoln Memorial to the west.

A cross you ask? Why a cross? What about separation of church and state? Yes, a cross; separation of church and state was not, is not, in the Constitution. So, read on . . .

How interesting and, no doubt, intended to carry a profound meaning for those who notice. Praise be to God! Within the monument itself are 898 steps and 50 landings. As one climbs the steps and pauses at the landings the memorial stones share a message. On the 12th Landing is a prayer offered by the City of Baltimore; on the 20th is a memorial presented by some Chinese Christians; on the 24th a presentation made by Sunday School children from New York and Philadelphia quoting Proverbs 10:7, Luke 18:16 and Proverbs 22:6.

Praise be to God!

When the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid on July 4th, 1848 deposited within it were many items including the Holy Bible presented by the Bible Society.

Praise be to God!

Such was the discipline, the moral direction, the spiritual mood given by the founder and first President of our unique democracy …“One Nation, Under God.” I am awed by Washington’s prayer for America. Have you ever read it? Well now is your unique opportunity, so read on!

“Almighty God; We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection; that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States at large. And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Laus Deo!

As you probably guessed, over 92 percent of Americans like the idea that our Pledge of Allegiance includes the phrase “under God.” It is clear when one studies the history of our great nation, that Washington’s America was one of the few countries in all the world established under the guidance, direction and banner of Almighty God, to whom was given all praise, honor and worship by the great men who formed and fashioned her pivotal foundations.

When one stops to observe the inscriptions found in public places all over our nation’s capital, he or she will easily find the signature of God, as it is unmistakably inscribed everywhere you look.

Though many try to disprove and reason, their arguments are weak and easily proven without basis. Their efforts will forever be in vain; God assures us of that. Have you noticed as of late, how many more people are coming together, affirming the fact that this nation was, from the beginning, built on God? Any nation that is not built upon God will fail.

The truth is: We have always been one nation under God! Laus Deo! Praise be to God!

You may forget the width and height of “Laus Deo”, it’s location, or the architects but no one who reads this will be able to forget it’s meaning, or these words:

“Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain.” — Psalm 127: 1 (NKJV).

Let us remember to do our part, through prayers and sacrifice, to be the watchmen who stand their guard.

It is hoped you will send this to every child you know; to every sister, brother, father, mother or friend. They will not find offense, because you have given them a lesson in history that they probably never learned in school. With that, be not ashamed, or afraid, but have pity on those who will never see.

*From a 2007 update on the status of the Monument at that time.

As we noted in a previous article about the Washington monument, the apex of the structure was crowned by an aluminum point with four faces, with each face bearing engraved words. Three of the inscription’s present names, dates, and figures associated with the creation of the monument, while the fourth face bears only the two words “LAUS DEO” (a Latin phrase meaning “Praise be to God” or “God be praised”).

Because the inscriptions on the monument’s capstone (sitting atop the 555-foot high obelisk) are not visible to visitors, a replica of the capstone has been on display in a publicly-accessible area maintained by the National Park Service (NPS) at the 490-foot level of the Washington Monument. The replica rests inside a case set against a wall which displays photographs and information about the construction of the monument.

Sometime recently, however, the exhibit was changed so that the capstone replica, instead of being displayed at an angle relative to the wall behind it (thus making the inscriptions on all four sides viewable), was placed with the side representing the east face of the capstone set parallel to the wall (thus rendering the “LAUS DEO” inscription on that side non-viewable to visitors, as they cannot get between the exhibit case and the wall to see it). The last sentence of the informational card which previously accompanied the capstone exhibit (“The casting was inscribed with the phrase, Laus Deo, [Praise be to God]”) was also omitted in the newer version.
The NPS’ Chief of Public Affairs acknowledged the changes, said that they had been made inadvertently when the capstone replica was temporarily moved while the monument was undergoing renovations, and stated that the NPS would restore the exhibit to its previous state:

Thank you for your recent e-mail (*to undisclosed recipient) concerning the replica of the Washington Monument capstone and the associated interpretive panel.

The replica capstone was on display in a tent on the National Mall during recent renovation of the Monument. When it was moved inside the Monument, it was placed against the wall. While the change in placement and wording was never intended to offend anyone, we understand why some visitors might feel otherwise. We made a mistake and we are fixing it.

The capstone is being moved away from the wall so that visitors will be able to read the engravings on all four sides.

In addition, we will install interpretive panels with the exact language found on all sides of the capstone in letters easy to read. These panels will include the phrase “Laus Deo” (Praise be to God – in Latin).

I hope this is an acceptable solution. If you were personally offended, please accept our sincere apology.

And remember to Experience your America in the National Parks often.

David Barna
Chief of Public Affairs
National Park Service
Washington, DC

About Roland Ledoux

Pastor of Oasis Bible Ministry, an outreach ministry of intercessory prayer, encouragement and exhortation of the Word of God and author of the ministry blog, For The Love of God. I live in Delta, Colorado with my beautiful wife of 49+ years and a beautiful yellow lab whom we affectionately call Bella.
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