The National Shrine Basilica owes much to Bishop Thomas Shahan, Rector of The Catholic University of America, who in 1913 presented his plan to build the a National Shrine to Pope St. Pius X. The Pope gave not only his blessing but also $400 as a personal contribution. Plans were completed in 1920 and the lower church, called the Crypt Church, was completed in 1926.
Construction of the upper church commenced after the Great Depression and World War II in the 1950s. This is apparent in the architecture and noticeable in the artistic merit of many side altars and chapels throughout the Shrine. Meanwhile, the Shrine was liturgically dedicated on November 20, 1959. Pope John Paul II proclaimed the Shrine a Basilica on October 12, 1990.
Located on the crypt level (and to the left if one stands facing the entrance to the Crypt Church), the chapel of the Immaculate Conception was made possible by a donation of George Logan Duval of New York City. The chapel was dedicated on May 3, 1931.
The chapel contains pews to accomodate about 40 to 50 pilgrims comfortably. There are also confessionals to the left of the pews and devotional candles to the right.
In fidelity to the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum of Pope Benedict XVI, the chapel's sacristy (to the right of the altar) is in the process of being fully provisioned for the offering of the extraordinary form of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Priests leading a pilgrimage and intending to offer the Mass according to the extraordinary form should contact the Shrine's Pilgrimage Department, headed by Sr. Teresa Mary Kozlovski, RSM (202-526-8300) to present a celebret (or its equivalent) and reserve the altar (or any other) for a specific time.