Landmarks: Grace Cathedral

By Michelle Konstantinovsky

You may know it as the Gothic masterpiece that sits atop Nob Hill, but if you think Grace Cathedral is just a house of worship, think again. As the third-largest Episcopal church in the United States, Grace serves a congregation of 500 households and welcomes countless visitors from around the world each year. Out-of-towners aren’t just clamoring for a peek at the landmark’s iconic architecture, either: the Cathedral has earned a reputation for inclusivity, warmly accepting attendees of all religions, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations. 

“Grace Cathedral is a house of prayer for all people and a spiritual crossroads in one of the world’s most dynamic and beautiful cities,” says Malcolm Clemens Young, dean of the Cathedral. It’s also led the community in fighting for causes like fair labor, civil rights and feminism, and it has served as a place of solace for those affected by HIV/AIDS. “Today, the Cathedral continues its long legacy of social justice by addressing racial inequality, immigration rights, homelessness and the refugee crisis,” he notes.

With daily services, spirituality remains at the core of the Cathedral’s role in the community, but visitors might be surprised to discover the numerous other activities and exhibits that exist behind the church’s famed Ghiberti doors. Grace hosts and houses works from artists all around the globe, and currently features an installation of light and moving images from artists in residence Benjamin Bergery and Jim Campbell titled “Jacob’s Dream: A Luminous Path.” The Cathedral’s renowned stained glass is also an epic sight to behold: The 68 named windows by five artists in three techniques cover approximately 7,290 square feet and have attracted international admiration and praise.

Music and movement play major roles in Cathedral life as well. Everyone from KD Lang and Aaron Neville to Carlos Santana and Bonnie Raitt have graced Grace’s stage. On July 6, the church is hosting a free performance by Escolania de Montserrat Choir, who hail from a 14th-century Barcelona mountain abbey. And the Cathedral’s Tuesday-night yoga class is reported by some to be the largest weekly yoga gathering in the country. From concerts to group savasanas, Grace truly has something for everybody.

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