Started 1910, completed 1964
Grace Cathedral is third largest Episcopal Church in the U.S. – St John the Divine in New York is the largest (and still incomplete), followed by the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. Designed in the Gothic style, the exterior is made of reinforced concrete hammered to resemble stone.
Construction on the Cathedral began in 1910 but was halted in 1930 when funding ran out. A temporary wall was installed across the front to protect the finished portion. Th wall remained in place for 30 years until Ben Swig, the owner of the Fairmont Hotel, got involved. The Cathedral was finally completed in 1964.
Grace Cathedral, unfinished circa 1954
1940s casting from original by
Lorenzo Ghiberti, 1540
These doors depicting multi-layered, dimensional scenes from the Old Testament are an exact replica of those made for the Baptistry in Florence Italy by the great Renaissance artist. It took Ghiberti over 20 years to complete this masterwork. During World War II, a cast was made from the original doors which were taken and hidden for safe keeping. These replica doors were made from that cast and installed for the Cathedral’s dedication in 1964. In Florence, the original doors were moved to a museum for preservation in 1990 and replaced with replicas.
|The sculptor Ghibert (left) and his son|
Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has only one path and no dead ends. People walk the labyrinth as a tool for meditation or quiet thought; please be respectful of people walking around it during your visit. The outdoor terrazzo labyrinth was installed in 1995; the limestone one inside in 2007.
Notice the difference between the windows in the back toward the altar and those closer to the front doors. The front windows were done in 1966 by the Willet Stained Glass Company, who also did the windows for the modern Cathedral of St. Mary's of the Assumption on Gough and Geary. The windows toward the back of the church were done by Boston artist Charles Connick in the 1930s using thinner glass, more subtle colors and painted images.
The smaller windows along the top, done in 1970 by French artist Gabriel Loire, are known as the Human Endeavor series. Look for tributes to Frank Lloyd Wright, Robert Frost, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein and astronaut John Glenn. A four-year project to clean and restore all the windows was completed in 2010.
The Interfaith AIDS Chapel
This chapel, dedicated to the remembrance of all those who died of AIDS, welcomes all faiths. The three-part altar piece is by artist Keith Haring, who completed it just before his death from AIDS in 1990. A changing display of sections of the AIDS quilt, started in San Francisco by activist Cleve Jones in 1987, can be found here, along with the Book of Remembrance listing names of victims of the disease.
Grace Cathedral is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and weekends beginning at 8 a.m. Access may be limited during special services or events. Docent tours are available on Sundays after the 11 a.m. service, Saturdays beginning at 11:30 and weekdays from 12:30 – 2. Visit www.gracecathedral.org for more information.