Most people are not aware that at the top of
the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.
sits an aluminum cap with the Latin inscription, “Laus Deo.” I came across this fascinating story
when I recently read an article by Samuel B. Casey,
Executive Director & CEO of the Christian Legal
Society. The following is an excerpt from Mr. Casey’s
report. I’m sure this will be a history lesson you
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 may
want to share this with others….
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,
indeed the Father of every nation, overlooking
the 69 square miles which comprise
the District of Columbia, capital of
the United States of America.
Two seemingly insignificant, unnoticed
words—out of sight and, one
might think, out of mind, but very meaningfully
placed at the highest point over
what is today the most powerful city in
the most successful nation in the history of 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 more years (when Theodore Roosevelt
was President) to finally cap the memorial with a tribute
to the One Washington himself thought to be the Source
of any nation’s Providence, particularly America.
“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; with as much right to
be in our public square as any of the other symbols that
constitute and have contributed to our life together here
Laus Deo…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
American 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? Imagine
yourself…on top the Monument with the
wind blowing all around you as you read
it aloud to anyone who will listen as you
“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.”
When one stops to observe the inscriptions found in
public places all over our nation's capitol, he or she will
easily find the acknowledgement of God, as it is unmistakably
inscribed everywhere you look.
Laus Deo! Praise be to God!
While we may forget the width and height of the
“Laus Deo” inscription, its location, or the architects, let
us pray we will not forget its meaning, or these true words
God gave to David, the second king of the Hebrews:
"Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in
vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen
stand guard in vain." (Psalm 127: 1)
Reprinted by permission. CHRISTIAN LEGAL SOCIETY 8001 Braddock Road,
Suite 300 Springfield, Virginia 22151 www. clsnet.org