The cathedral is a cathedral of the Episcopal Church in the United States. It is the official seat of both the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church USA and the Diocese of Washington.
Construction started September 29, 1907 with a ceremonial address by President Theodore Roosevelt and the laying of the cornerstone.
Construction lasted eighty-three years. The last finial was placed in the presence of President George H. W. Bush in 1990.
The Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation operates and funds the cathedral, which does not receive government funding.
The cathedral also has been a temporary home to several congregations, including a Jewish pro-synagogue and an Eastern Orthodox community.
The architecture shows a mix of influences from the various Gothic architectural styles of the Middle Ages: pointed arches, flying buttresses, a variety of ceiling vaulting, stained-glass windows and carved decorations in stone, and three towers, two on the west front and one above the crossing.