Grace Cathedral – San Francisco, CA

Soaring over San Francisco’s famous Nob Hill neighborhood, the iconic Grace Cathedral is both a tourist landmark as well as a symbol of hope. It is known for its ‘Gates of Paradise,’ breathtaking murals and labyrinths. It is also one of the largest Episcopalian churches in the United States. Meticulously built over the course of 37 years, the cathedral is teeming with rich culture and history.

Grace Cathedral began as a small parish that was built during the California Gold Rush of 1849. However, the 1906 earthquake destroyed the original structure. A wealthy San Francisco family donated their Nob Hill land for construction of the new church. The construction took place from 1927 until completion in 1964. The dedication was celebrated with a sermon by Martin Luther King Jr., which was attended by nearly 5,000 people.

The architecture and attention to detail make this cathedral a popular tourist destination. One of the entrances to the cathedral boasts doors also known as ‘Gates of Paradise.’ They are replicas of the doors designed by famed Italian artist Lorenzo Ghiberti. Cast from bronze and covered with gold, the doors depict several biblical events.

Grace Cathedral is also known for its two labyrinths, one inside and one outside. The outdoor labyrinth is accessible year-round. The labyrinths are a tradition dating back to France’s Chartres Cathedral in 1220 when people would walk through the winding labyrinth as a way to meditate and return to God’s healing power.

Inspired by the Notre Dame in Paris, the church is also known for its stained glass windows and vibrant murals that adorn the walls. The murals depict several important events in the history of San Francisco, such as the earthquake of 1906 and the drafting of the U.N. charter in 1945. The stained glass windows of the cathedral are decorated with portraits of Adam and Eve as well as notable people in world history, such as Albert Einstein and Robert Frost. Many famous people have spoken at Grace Cathedral including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jane Goodall, Carlos Santana, Sandra Day O’Connor and the Dalai Lama.

Some of the best views of San Francisco can be seen from the top of its south tower. Free guided tours of the church are available on select days.

More information and a free visitor guide can be found at

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Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.