Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

4.5 out of 5 stars 4.5 Stars - 16 Reviews

1100 California Street, Nob Hill 415-749-6300

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  • Candles Inside the Church
    Candles Inside the Church
    by riorich55
  • behind Grace Cathedral
    behind Grace Cathedral
    by mindcrime
  • Grace Cathedral
    Grace Cathedral
    by mindcrime
  • iandsmith's Profile Photo

    The Ghiberti story

    by iandsmith Updated Jul 31, 2011

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The fabulous Ghiberti door

    I remember vividly that I had about an hour to spare and so aimed for Nob Hill which happened to be the nearest high point from our hotel in Union Square.
    I caught the cable car up because I wanted to check out the Cable Car Museum and, after that, I headed for the heights.
    Up on the hill I found a little bit of magic in the architecture and views, as well as the park and, across from the park was a church, Grace Cathedral as it turned out. As I strolled around the outside, because it was closed, something caught my eye. The doors, I'd seen them before, surely they couldn't be? But they were.
    Yes indeed, the famous southern Doors of Paradise from the Baptistry in Firenze (Florence). I imagine most people when they're there think they are the originals but no, in fact what you see in Firenze is exactly what you see here, a copy, and they are the only two. The original is held in secure storage and is regarded as a masterpiece of Renaissance art.
    They took Ghiberti nigh on a quarter of a century to do in bronze and he had already done the New Testament Doors prior to these.
    They reflect the Old Testament, and Leonardo Bruni, another Florentine artist and humanist, chose the program, a summation of the greatest and most familiar stories of the Hebrew Torah, which is the Christian Old Testament. Several of the stories feature virtuous younger sons who receive divine favor over their older brothers; Abel and Cain, Jacob and Esau, (Isaac and Ishmael), Joseph and his brothers. Another theme is the salvation of humanity (Adam, Noah, Moses) despite human lapses. Many stories can also be read as precursors of New Testament themes.
    In the door frames flanking the panels are statuettes and portrait heads separated by floral decoration. They represent Old Testament prophets and heroes whose prophecies or deeds parallel or comment on, scenes in the adjacent panels. Only ten of the statuettes and four of the heads are clearly identified.
    For me, it's worth the walk just to see the doors - who needs to go inside!

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  • riorich55's Profile Photo

    Take the Free Docent Tour

    by riorich55 Written Mar 31, 2011

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    The Front Entrance to Grace Cathedral
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    We arrived in San Francisco on a Sunday morning around 11:30 a.m. I dropped Sue off at the hotel we were staying and then drove our rental car, which I had put over 900 miles on during our week traveling from San Francisco to the Wine Country to Yosemite and back, a few blocks away to the rental facility. After a quick walk up the hill back to the hotel and some quick organization, we were out the door ready to begin our 3 day tour of the City by the Bay.

    We noticed when we got to the hotel a Notre Dame type church just up California Street where we were staying. So with no particular game plan in place for the day (our big planned day was Monday) we headed up the first of many hills to see what turned out to be Grace Cathedral.

    Just a little history first (the remainder you can Google or Bing or whatever search engine you use to find out the rest). Grace Cathedral is today an Episcopalian Church located on the top of Nob Hill on the site where the Crocker Mansion used to stand prior to the 1906 earthquake. Before you even enter the church you will be greeted by a set of impressive doors called the Ghiberti Doors. These are not original doors from a church in Florence, Italy as once thought but replicas shipped and then installed for the 1964 official dedication. I can't remember the entire history of the church, which was given to us on the tour, but I was really surprised with how young the church really was even though it had been built in steps with the final completion in 1964.

    The tour I believe started at 1:00 p.m. and we had arrived shortly after the tour began so we missed the first couple of minutes. The docent giving the tour takes you through the entire church talking about the history and also explaining a number of the very impressive modern day stain glass windows that depict over 1100 figures from Adam and Eve to Einstein to John Glenn the first American Astronaut to circle the earth. The tour lasted about 90 minutes with people coming and going throughout. Once we arrived we did stay until the end of the tour.

    Inside the church near the front entrance is a labyrinth that is based on the famous medieval labyrinth of Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Chartes located in Chartes, France. We didn't get a chance to walk the pattern of the labyrinth which would have brought us to a meditative state, but we didn't have time to meditate (in fact other then my periodic Yoga Classes I don't really meditate all that often).

    The light coming through the stain glass windows made for some really interesting pictures. Besides the 5 pictures I have for this tip, I will also share the others through a travelogue.

    A gift shop is also inside the church. Sue always feels a little guilty about getting tours for free so she ended up spending a few $$$ in the shop before we left.

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  • goodfish's Profile Photo

    Best Free Thing #18: Amazing Grace

    by goodfish Written Jun 14, 2010

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Grace Cathedral
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    This lovely gothic Episcopal cathedral was built on land donated by the heirs of railroad baron Charles Crocker after the previous church was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. Located on tony Nob Hill, it covers an entire city block and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Lech Walesa, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama, and the Reverend Billy Graham are a few of the honored guests to have addressed the congregation.

    Pick up a free brochure from the welcome desk for a self-guided tour that includes:
    • Keith Haring altarpiece in the AIDS Interfaith chapel
    • 14th century Flemish altarpiece in the Chapel of Grace
    • 13th century Spanish crucifix
    • Colorful murals depicting historic events
    • Replica of Lorenzo Ghiberti's bronze Doors of Paradise

    Most of all, come for the stained glass windows; some of the most interesting and beautiful I've seen to date. End your visit with a reflective walk around the sanctuary or garden labyrinths. There are restrooms and a gift shop in the basement.

    See the website for hours, services, downloadable visitor's guide and more on the history of the cathedral.

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  • mindcrime's Profile Photo

    Grace Cathedral

    by mindcrime Written Jan 20, 2010

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    Grace Cathedral
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    After visiting the City Hall we took Bus #47 and stopped at Ness & California at the start of another Cable Car line, the one that goes to Market. A few stops later we stopped at Grace Cathedral.

    The gothic building is located at Nob Hill and it was built after the 1909 earthquake on the site of an earlier little chapel (1849). It is nice but nothing to get excited with. There are some interesting stained glass windows with scenes from the bible but you can also see other figures like Albert Einstein!! We checked some murals and then played around the labyrinth that is on the floor of the cathedral. Then went outside to check the reliefs on the entrance doors which are known as the Ghiberti doors. They are replicas of Ghiberti’s doors of the Florence Baptistry.

    There is a choir from time to time, you have to buy tickets in advance but a friend told me the acoustics in the cathedral aren’t the best ones. I noticed at their leaflets that they also organize other exhibits/talks/movie shows!

    The cathedral is open mon-fri 07.00-18.00 and sat-sun 08.00-18.00. There was a small church behind the cathedral (pic 3) but I dont have any info about it.

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  • Jefie's Profile Photo

    Nob Hill's Episcopal Cathedral

    by Jefie Written Oct 3, 2009

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    Grace Cathedral in Nob Hill, San Francisco
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    Standing at the heart of the Nob Hill district, Grace Cathedral is the main Episcopal church in San Francisco. Although construction began in 1928, the cathedral was only completed in 1964. It was designed by Lewis P. Hobart, who largely drew his inpiration from the design of Notre-Dame de Paris. Despite its traditional design, the cathedral prides itself on being a modern and openminded place of worship. Same-sex unions can be blessed and celebrated at Grace Cathedral, and an interfaith AIDS chapel was dedicated in 2000 as a memorial to those of have died from the disease and a place to pray for those who are still fighting against it. The cathedral's stained glass windows are also quite interesting to look at since many of them depict modern scenes. Finally, there is an indoor and an outdoor labyrinth where people are invited to walk and meditate.

    Grace Cathedral is open daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. Rarely have I seen a place of worship that went so out of its way to make visitors feel welcome, it's truly worth stopping by!

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  • sue_stone's Profile Photo

    Grace Cathedral

    by sue_stone Written Feb 8, 2009

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    Grace Cathedral
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    Grace Cathedral is an impressive looking church perched up on Nob Hill. The church was founded during the Gold Rush in 1849, but has been destroyed and re-built a few times since. The current cathedral was built between 1928 and 1964, and is the third largest Episcopal cathedral in the USA.

    The cathedral has some stunning stained glass windows, and is famed for its Ghiberti Doors of Paradise which were made from the same molds as the doors from the stunning Duomo in Florence, Italy. In 2000, the AIDS Interfaith Chapel was completed as a memorial to the thousands of local residents who have died of AIDS.

    Grace Cathedral has two Labyrinths - one inside and one outside. The outdoor labyrinth is always accessible and it is said that if you walk the pattern of the labyrinth you will reach a meditative state - I cannot confirm this as I lost interest after one lap.

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  • atufft's Profile Photo

    Grace Cathedral, Part 5--Interior Secular Art

    by atufft Written Jun 8, 2007

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    Earthquake and Fire Mural at Grace Cathedral
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    There's a great series of murals along the walls that depict the history of the church in California, including the Spanish padres with Indians, 49er Gold Beginnings of the Grace Church, the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, and the Founding of the United Nations in San Francisco. Grace Cathedral is a good place to teach the children through art about both religious and secular history with illustrations.

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  • atufft's Profile Photo

    Grace Cathedral, Part 4--Interior Religious Art

    by atufft Written Jun 8, 2007

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    South African Art at Grace Cathedral
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    The collection of tapestries, statues, and other relics contributed by the artists and wealthy members of this church was even more inspiring than even the arches and stained class. The wood carved choir benches, paneling, and grand pipe organ are also marvelous in this church. The pipe organ may be grandest in town, although the one at Calvary Presbyterian, a survivor of the 1906 Earthquake, deserves more recognition. Images here only the organ, a Bufano statue, and an interesting display on tour from South Africa.

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  • atufft's Profile Photo

    Grace Cathedral, Part 3--Interior Arches and Glass

    by atufft Written Jun 8, 2007

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    Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill
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    Besides the outstanding open arch ceiling, Grace cathedral has huge stained-glass windows of religious figures, and of such modern men as Thurgood Marshall, Robert Frost, and Albert Einstein. In these photos of the arches, one can barely detect the steel reinforcements behind them, which have yet to be covered.

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  • atufft's Profile Photo

    Grace Cathedral, Part 2--"The Gates of Paradise"

    by atufft Written Jun 8, 2007

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    Bronze Door Panel at Grace Cathedral
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    The Ghiberti doors are very rare bronze reproductions of the Florentine doors that stood for centuries at the east entrance of the Duomo in Italy. The molds for this work was made possible when the doors were removed for safe keeping during World War II. The person in charge of keeping the priceless 15th century rennaisance treasure safe saw the opportunity to have each panel removed and a mold created from it. Then, in 1964 the panels made from these molds were sold to the Cathedral. Michael and Pfeffer Metalworks of San Francisco made the reproduction bronze door frames into which the panels were placed. Only 5 of the panels are shown here. Each illustrates a major Biblical story.

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  • atufft's Profile Photo

    Grace Cathedral, Part 1--History of the Structure

    by atufft Written Jun 8, 2007

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    Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill
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    The Episcopal church has roots in San Francisco dating back to 1849, and the Grace Church itself is nearly that old. The current church was built after the 2nd church building was destroyed by the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. The land on Nob Hill was donated by the railroad baron/banker Crocker Family that was a prominent influence in the life of San Francisco. The construction of the current cathedral began in 1928 and was completed in 1964. The French Gothic style concrete and steel structure is designed to withstand seismic forces and is the third largest Episcopal church in the USA.

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  • Tom_Fields's Profile Photo

    Grace Cathedral

    by Tom_Fields Written Jan 9, 2007

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    Grace Cathedral
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    The first chapel was built here at the height of the Gold Rush, in 1849. A larger church was built later, but destroyed in the great earthquake of 1906. The present one, designed by Lewis P. Hobart, was completed in 1964. It's the third-largest Episcopal church in the country. As you can see, it bears a close resemblance to Notre Dame de Paris.

    One of its most striking features is the Ghiberti doors, replicas of the ones at the Baptistry in Florence, designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti. They're also known as the "Gates of Paradise". The stained-glass windows, designed by Charles Connick, were inspired by those at Chartres Cathedral in France. This is one of San Francisco's grandest churches.

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  • mydreamquest's Profile Photo

    Grace Cathedral

    by mydreamquest Written May 30, 2005

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    Fountain in a park in front of Grace Cathedral

    Across the street from Grace Catheral, on Nob Hill, surrounded by a Mansion and High Scale Hotels, suchs as the Fairmount, Ritz Carlton and Mark Hopkins, there is a polite, refreshing, intimate sitting area called "Huntington Park." It's very clean, and peaceful. If you are staying at hotel around there, I'd recommend you buy a cup of coffee and a newspaper and sit on a bench in front of this nice, relaxing fountain.

    On a sunny day, I can't think of anything more peaceful to do even as loud traffic screams by from all directions, all you hear is water running or if you're lucky and it's a Sunday afternoon, the most beautiful sounding wedding bells that echo on top of San Francisco with nowhere to go but to heaven.

    It will place you in heaven if you have a slight imagination. If you love to sketch or write poetry, you'll spend hours drafting images or ideas from the inspiration of a sit down here.

    The Grace Cathedral happens to be modeled after Notre Dame in Paris.

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  • Sandi-2004's Profile Photo

    Grace Cathedral based on Notre Dame Design

    by Sandi-2004 Updated Sep 26, 2004

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    Grace Cathedral began being built in 1928 & was finished in 1964. Its design is French Gothic & it resembles Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

    Famed for its Ghiberti doors ("The Gates of Paradise"), labyrinths, varied stained glass, and medieval and contemporary furnishings, as well as its carillon, organs, and choir, the Cathedral has become an international pilgrimage center for church-goer and visitor alike.

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  • Carmela71's Profile Photo

    Grace Cathedral

    by Carmela71 Updated Sep 4, 2004

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    Facade of Grace Cathedral

    A gothic cathedral from the 19th, it was an imitation of the French style ones.

    I love Architecture, specially gothic cathedrals, but what makes them impressive is that how they were constructed in that times. I am afraid I do not get so impress with a modern one. (I think the crystal one of Los Angeles was more original)

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