Though you may associate labyrinths with David Bowie and goblins, you can actually explore the magical mazes in real life. Bay Area dwellers and visitors in search of wandering whimsy will be intrigued to know that San Francisco’s crown jewel, Grace Cathedral, is home to two mind-blowing labyrinths.
The intricately winding passageways known as labyrinths have been around since the 4th century, but it’s only in recent times that modern houses of worship have been using them as meditation grounds. Labyrinths are, in fact, not true mazes because they consist of only one path that winds its way to a fixed center location—unlike mazes that are designed to be confusing to those who enter and have multiple points of entry and exit.
When you decide to walk the labyrinth inside Grace Cathedral, it’s a good time to be quiet, focused, and thinking about your spirituality. For these reasons, walking labyrinths inside churches and cathedrals has long been considered a fast track to meditation. There is a belief that three things occur when you walk through a labyrinth: purgation (the release of distractions), illumination (soaking up good energy), and union (reentering the world feeling a bit more in touch with your spiritual side).
Whether you want to reap the spiritual benefits associated with walking the labyrinths at Grace Cathedral, or you’re simply looking for a fun way to pass the time in San Francisco, here’s how to do so. The church’s indoor labyrinth is open during cathedral hours, and the outdoor labyrinth is open to visitors 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Additionally, a special candlelight labyrinth walk is held inside the cathedral each month. Usually, this event occurs from 6–8 p.m. on the second Friday of each month. Candles illuminate the labyrinth, and the church provides live music to accompany the walk. It is truly a special event unlike any other and is an excellent way to spend a Friday in the city.
The recent history of Grace Cathedral is one of social significance and reflects the liberal mindset of San Francisco today. In addition to being one of the only churches that welcomed AIDS victims in the ’80s, the cathedral built its AIDS Chapel which honors victims and caregivers alike. Renowned pop artist Keith Haring provided the chapel with its first furnishing, a casting of the triptych altarpiece “The Life of Christ”, which he produced in 1990. This was Haring’s last work before succumbing to AIDS.
Today, along with the labyrinth walk, Grace Cathedral hosts art exhibits, an Artist in Residence program, musical concerts, and yoga sessions during which people of all ages and faith affiliations come together on Tuesdays.
For more information about the candlelight labyrinth walk, or to check out the other events at Grace Cathedral, have a look at their online calendar to plan your visit.