You can get free passes daily to go for a tour of the Capitol Building in Washington DC. This is a tour conducted by interns who work in the buildings. They give very good educational tours and the building itself is so magnificent. You cannot be helped that you are at the CENTRE OF POWER of United States (and to a certain extent the WHOLE WORLD).
Amazing place. You can also see some of the things mentioned by Dan Brown in his book, the Lost Symbol in these pictures too (Although I took them WAY BEFORE he was famous even).
Some explanations of the pictures I took:
Right at the top is the The Apotheosis of Washington painted by Italian artist Constantino Brumidi in 1865 in the rotunda of the United States Capitol Building. The fresco is suspended 180 feet above the rotunda floor and covers an area of 4664 square feet. As they said, “George Washington could be Emperor if he wanted to”.
The frieze is located around the inside of the base of the dome and is a chronological, pictorial history of America from the landing of Christopher Columbus to the Wright Brothers’s flight in Kitty Hawk. The frieze was started in 1878 and was not completed until 1953.
The front picture is “Surrender of Lord Cornwallis”. It depicts the final surrender of the British after the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, in which a combined American-French force led by George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Comte de Rochambeau over British troops under Lord Cornwallis. The surrender led to the cessation of major Revolutionary War hostilities and British recognition of American independence in the 1783 Treaty of Paris.
Our Guide is the one in red colour top. The picture on the left: ‘Discovery of the Mississippi was the last painting to be commissioned by Congress for the rotunda. William H. Powell was given the commission in 1847 and the painting was purchased in 1855. At the center of the canvas, is Spanish navigator and conquistador Hernando de Soto riding a white horse. De Soto is thought to have become the first European to see the Mississippi River in 1541.
The picture on the right: Landing of Columbus was commissioned in 1836/1837 and placed in 1847. Painted by John Vanderlyn, it depicts Christopher Columbus landing in the West Indies, on San Salvador Island (Guanahani), on October 12, 1492. Columbus raises the royal banner to claim the land for Spain and he stands bareheaded with his hat at his feet in honor of the sanctity of the event.
Declaration of Independence was the first painting that Trumbull completed for the rotunda. An iconic image and probably the most widely recognized of the paintings in the rotunda, the painting was commissioned in 1817, it was purchased in 1819 and placed in 1826. Declaration of Independence depicts the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence (John Adams, Robert Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, and the principle author, Thomas Jefferson) presenting the declaration to the Second Continental Congress and President John Hancock in July 1776 in Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
American General Benjamin Lincoln is portrayed at the center of the painting riding a white horse, with French officers on the left and Americans on the right, led by Washington on the brown horse. The British were represented by officers, but Lord Cornwallis himself was not present and was represented instead by Charles O’Hara. As noted above, Washington declined O’Hara’s sword because according to the custom of the time it would only be proper from Washington to receive the sword from Cornwallis himself; Major Lincoln accepted the sword in Washington’s place.
Liberty and the Eagle : Placed between 1817 and 1819, this group originally stood above the Speaker’s desk when the House of Representatives met in this space. An American eagle stands to Liberty’s right, and the scroll in her right hand is the Constitution of the United States. To her left a serpent, the symbol of wisdom, is entwined around a section of a column.
A strong reminder to the Congress of their duties to the PEOPLE of the UNITED STATES !