Our guided tour of the U.S. Capitol led us into the rotunda...

It was amazing to get the above photo; all around us were dozens of tourist groups. For one split second I was able to capture the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol like this. Right here some of the most famous Americans, including Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and Rosa Parks, have lain in state or lain in honor in the capitol rotunda. There is a difference: If a person is lying in state, the casket is guarded by members of the armed forces. If a person is lying in honor, the United States Capitol Police watches as a civilian honor guard.

We then looked up...
Here we saw the gorgeous dome with the fresco The Apotheosis of Washington by painter Constantino Brumidi. For 11 months following the Civil War, Brumidi painted the fresco while suspended 180 feet in the air. Amazingly it covers an area of 4,664 square feet.

George Washington is surrounded by 13 maidens in an inner ring with many Greek and Roman gods and goddesses below him in a second ring. Some of the painted figures are up to 15 feet tall.

Inside of the base of the dome below the windows is Brumidi's famous Frieze of American History. The frieze is a chronological, trompe-l'oeil pictorial depicting 19 scenes from American history, from the landing of Christopher Columbus to the Wright Brother's flight. The frieze is 8 feet 4 inches in height and approximately 300 feet in circumference. Brumidi started the frieze in 1878, but died in 1880. Two other artists continued painting the frieze until it was completed in 1953. The final scenes depicted in the fresco had not yet occurred when Brumidi began the frieze.
Above is a close-up of two scenes: on the left is Peace at the End of the Civil War which depicts a Confederate soldier and a Union soldier shaking hands at the end of the Civil War; to the right is Naval Gun Crew in the Spanish-American War.

Click here to learn more about scheduling a tour of the U.S. Capitol.

Click here to read more in depth about the Capitol rotunda.

In my next blog post I will continue our visit inside the Capitol and the beautiful dome.

All photos in this blog post were taken by my husband and me during our visit in September, 2013.