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Images of faith preserved at Capitol attest to role of religion in U.S.


  • A sculpture of Father Eusebio Kino is seen at the U.S. Capitol in Washington May 3. The Jesuit missionary is known for his longtime work with the Pima Indians in southern Arizona. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
  • A painting of the "Discovery of the Mississippi" is seen at the U.S. Capitol in Washington July 6. The artwork depicts Hernando de Soto, a Spanish explorer, standing at the Mississippi River with priests, praying and placing a crucifix in the ground. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
  • A sculpture titled "Contemplation of Justice" is seen outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington Jan. 31. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
  • A sculpture of St. Junipero Serra is seen at the U.S. Capitol in Washington July 6. The Spanish Franciscan founded several missions in what is now California. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
  • A sculpture of St. Damien of Molokai is seen at the U.S. Capitol in Washington July 6. The 19th-century Belgian missionary spent his life ministering to people with Hansen's disease in Hawaii. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
  • A sculpture of Mother Joseph is seen at the U.S. Capitol in Washington July 6. The Canadian missionary helped start 11 hospitals, seven academic institutions and two orphanages in the Pacific Northwest. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Elaborate artwork adorns the monumental buildings in the nation's capital, depicting the beauty and grandeur of the neoclassical era that inspired these buildings.

It is within these various forms of art that the principles on which the United States was founded come to life.

Much of this artwork illustrates virtue and features several religious figures, highlighting the influence of religion in the history of the United States.

Father Eugene Hemrick, a priest of the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois, is a columnist for Catholic News Service and the author of the book "One Nation Under God," which looks at the various religious symbols and images scattered throughout Washington.

To Father Hemrick, the early history of the United States makes it clear that the Founders were dedicated to God and that their faith influenced their decisions for the nation.

"This country was established with a very strong religious background," Father Hemrick said in an interview July 3 with CNS.

According to a book published by the Department of the Interior, the men who signed the Constitution were predominantly members of the Protestant denominations that characterized early America, with only two men, Daniel Carroll and Thomas Fitzsimons, being Catholic.

"So we have their representation that these people were very conscious of religion," said Father Hemrick, who is in residence at St. Joseph Church on Capitol Hill.

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