Although this Nob Hill cathedral, designed by architect Lewis P. Hobart, appears to be made of stone, it is in fact constructed of reinforced concrete beaten to achieve a stonelike effect. Construction began on the site of the Crocker mansion in 1928 but was not completed until 1964. Among the more interesting features of the building are its stained-glass windows, particularly those by the French Loire studios and Charles Connick, depicting such modern figures as Thurgood Marshall, Robert Frost, and Albert Einstein; the replicas of Ghiberti’s bronze “Doors of Paradise” at the east end; the series of religious murals completed in the 1940s by Polish artist John De Rosen; and the 44-bell carillon.
Where Grace really stands out, however, is in the compassion of its congregation, in no finer display than in the Interfaith AIDS Memorial Chapel that’s located to the right as you enter. Two weeks before his own death from the disease in 1990, pop artist Keith Haring completed a triptych altarpiece called “The Life of Christ.” The final 600-pound work in bronze and white gold patina sits in the chapel’s place of honor. The church has been respecting and praying for AIDS victims ever since 1986, back when most people in our government were sitting on their hands even while this city was being devastated. A segment of the famous AIDS Memorial Quilt is displayed above the chapel; it’s rotated on a regular basis with new pieces.
Next door at the associated Diocesan House (1055 Taylor St.), there’s a small and pleasant sculpture garden and, inside, often a free art or photography exhibition.
Along with its unique ambience, Grace lifts spirits with services, musical performances (including organ recitals and evensong, or evening prayer, on many Sundays). A lovely place to pray, meditate, or simply look at the beautiful building, doors are open every day to everyone.
- Erika Lennert