Art Within the Cathedral
Stained Glass Windows
Doors of Paradise
Grace Cathedral’s bell carillon celebrated its 75th birthday on Christmas Eve in 2015. The history of this collection of forty-four bronze bells is almost as striking as the bells themselves! It involves a British-born orphan who started life in the workhouse, became a San Francisco dentist and investor, and lived on a dollar a day during his last years so he could realize his goal of gifting the cathedral not just the bells but the soaring Singing Tower where they reside.
The bells have rung on many historic occasions: for D-Day, VE, and VJ Days, the funeral of William Randolph Hearst, and the centenary of the cable cars.
On a somber note, the carillon has marked the number of Golden Gate Bridge suicides, and at important funerals, each year of the departed person’s life is tolled by the Bourdon bell. On a happy note, the bells have rung out San Francisco’s World Series and Super Bowl triumphs.
Today, you can hear the carillon ring every hour from 9 am to 6 pm.
Furnishings + Treasures
Medieval Gothic cathedrals symbolized the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, coming down to earth, with the Sacrificed Lamb (Christ, the High Altar), the river of life (Baptismal Font), and healing Edenic trees (nave piers) of the Book of Revelation. Grace Cathedral is centered around these sacred liturgical furnishings and has a wide variety of other furnishings and less-often-seen treasures. As one enters the cathedral, the Baptismal Font is intentionally prominent at the center. Through the baptismal rite of blessed water, individuals enter the church community. They join in the Eucharist or Holy Communion, the central rite of Christianity, ingesting the symbolic body and blood of Christ. This takes place at the High Altar at the center of the cathedral, a new (1964) position replacing the former apse altar and allowing fuller community participation. The stark modern Altar is made of Sierra granite and coastal redwood, natural California materials. The side altar in the Chapel of Grace is a French Knight Hospitaller and Prior altar-tomb (empty) from c. 1521. It supports a detailed Flemish-made altarpiece of a similar date showing the passion of Christ. The bishop’s cathedra, or official seat in the cathedral choir, is near the organ console.
Along the nave walls are murals by Polish-born John De Rosen (1949-50) and Bolivian-born Antonio Sotomayor (1982-83). De Rosen’s unfinished series features world church and Anglo-Episcopal church themes. Of note are the Francis Drake and St. Francis murals. Sotomayor’s led formal Grace Church/Cathedral history series includes murals of the Grace Chapel (1849) and Grace Church destruction (1906). Also of interest are the California wildflower kneelers at the sanctuary rail (1964) and the more extensive California fauna series (2000) in the choir stalls.