Grace Cathedral San Francisco

Grace Cathedral San Francisco by North & South Nomads

Grace Cathedral San Francisco

This will probably come as a surprise to anyone who hasn’t known me since school, but I’m a Catholic!

In spite of my parent’s best efforts with church every weekend, and 13 years of Catholic schooling… none of it sunk in.

Kind of like my maths classes.

A lot of my discussions about religion with my parents have me laughing for months and months after. E.g.:

Mum: What are you giving up for Lent, Jess?

Me: I’m vegan. What the hell is left for me to give up? I do Lent EVERY DAY.

Or one of North Nomad’s favourite ones at one family gathering…

Me: I like the scattergun approach to religion. I pray to all the deities: Buddha, Krishna, Radha, Kali, Diana…

Mum (shaking her head and tutting): those aren’t real, Jessica.

Me (killing myself laughing): And yours is?!

My poor Catholic parents have a lot to put up with from me.

These days, being Catholic for me is cultural, rather than a religious affinity or belief structure. Like Dylan Moran once said, only the Irish Catholics really understand the guilt behind taking the last biscuit on a plate…

Grace Cathedral San Francisco by North & South Nomads

On a trip to San Francisco with my mother and sister, we visit Grace Cathedral. It’s an Anglican place of worship, and a beautiful piece of architecture and a historical icon in San Francisco.

Surprisingly, the church doesn’t go up in flames as blasphemous, scatter-gun approach to deities me walks inside. We didn’t test it out with atheist North Nomad, though, which would be the real litmus test. 😉

The Grace Church was founded in 1849 during the Gold Rush. The cathedral as it stands in its most modern incarnation, began construction in 1928, designed in the French Gothic style by Lewis P Hobart.

The church is renowned for its De Rosen mosiacsa replica of Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise, two labyrinths, varied stained glass windows, and the Keith Haring AIDS Chapel.

Grace Cathedral San Francisco by North & South Nomads

Out of all of the architecture and art work, it was the labyrinth on the floor inside which took my eye. It reminded me of something out of an Indiana Jones movie. This labyrinth was created in 1201 for Chatres Cathedral in France.

Labyrinths are iconic across all cultures. In Greek mythology, The Labyrinth of Crete imprisoned the minotaur. In (somewhat) more recent popular culture, David Bowie acted as the Goblin King lording over the Labynrith that Sarah had to navigate to bring back her baby brother Toby.

A labyrinth isn’t just a maze: it has one single path leading to the centre.  In Christian traditions, walking a labyrinth represents a spiritual journey; a holy pilgrimage. The church encourages visitors to the use the labynrith, even as a non-denominational walk to practice mental well-being and focus. They even hold yoga classes on the labyrinth ever Tuesday evening.

Grace Cathedral has two labyrinths. The outdoor labyrinth, to the right of the Cathedral doors, is always open. The indoor labyrinth is open when the Cathedral is open: normally 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday – Saturday and 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Sunday, when no special events or services are being held.

I’d be remiss to leave out a bit of Catholic San Fran trivia I learnt during our trip to San Francisco: St Paul’s Catholic Church was the set of 1992’s Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg, referred to as St Katherine’s Parish.

Grace Cathedral San Francisco by North & South Nomads

Grace Cathedral San Francisco by North & South Nomads

Grace Cathedral San Francisco by North & South Nomads

Grace Cathedral San Francisco by North & South Nomads

Grace Cathedral San Francisco by North & South Nomads

Do you have a favourite church or cathedral? Or like North Nomad, would a church go up in flames if you walked inside? 🙂


Location: Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St, San Francisco, CA  94108

Contact Details: 415-749-6300 Tour information: Zerve at 800-979-3370 or online at

Opening Hours:  8 a.m. daily and 7 a.m. Thursdays. Closing hours vary. The Cathedral offices are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday

11 thoughts on “Grace Cathedral San Francisco

  1. I do like churches and cathedrals in general, the older the better. A lot of them have an air of majesty, maybe because they are impressive buildings, especially considering the times they’ve been built in.

    And so far none of them went up in flames.

  2. I went to a cathedral in washington d.c. a few years back and it was the most beautiful church I’ve ever been in. I love how the cathedrals are usually built with high ceilings and archways. I think it’s one of the fews times I felt a spiritual presence being in a religious building.

  3. What a beautiful church! I am definitely not religious (but not athiest) and I wasn’t raised Catholic (my response to the Lent question on what I’m giving us is “I’m not Catholic, so I get to keep all my vices!”) :). But…I love to visit beautiful, historic churches. My faves are European churches though. I went in a few in Bavaria Germany 2 years ago and was awestruck. Those labyrinths are amazing….next time I’m in San Fran, I’ll have to remember to check this out! 🙂

    • I can imagine European churches have a gothic beauty to them, and are set in some pretty wondrous landscape. For bright, sunny San Fran, this is a beautiful patch of church history 🙂

  4. I’ve told my parents that I can’t go to church with them because it makes my skin burn, but I think going to old cathedrals and seeing churches in their historical context is totally different. This one looks gorgeous.

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