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Rose window © wplynn/Flickr
Rose window © wplynn/Flickr
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Explore SF’s Grace Cathedral: Labyrinths, Yoga, Music, & More

Picture of Courtney Holcomb
Updated: 9 February 2017
No matter their religious affiliations (or lack thereof), San Franciscans love exploring Grace Cathedral. Aside from its religious community and services, this Episcopal cathedral has a lot to offer. Pop over to Nob Hill and see the cathedral’s gorgeous architecture, walk one of its labyrinths, or enjoy the donation-based yoga, live performances, and famous artworks hosted onsite.
Grace Cathedral © Fabrice Florin/Flickr
Grace Cathedral | © Fabrice Florin/Flickr

The first thing to notice about Grace Cathedral is its powerful French Gothic architecture, reminding visitors of the famous Notre Dame. Nestled between the cathedral’s two towers sits a stained glass rose window, a staple of French Gothic cathedrals. Lit up, the intricate window casts colored light across the floor, creating a romantic atmosphere that recalls that of Paris’s Sainte-Chapelle. Visitors can download the GraceGuide app to take a self-guided tour, learning about the cathedral’s art, architecture, and history. The app also includes a treasure hunt called Cathedral Quest, a great option for families with children. Guided tours are also available.

Indoor labyrinth © GPS/Flickr
Indoor labyrinth | © GPS/Flickr

When visiting, you’ll get the chance to explore the cathedral’s two labyrinths – one indoor, one outdoor. Grace Cathedral has been a prominent force in the Modern Labyrinth Movement, encouraging churches around the world to incorporate labyrinths. Visitors are encouraged to try a walking meditation when exploring the labyrinths. Instructions for how to walk a labyrinth on your own can be found here. The labyrinths are open to the public daily, and every Friday a trained labyrinth facilitator hosts an indoor labyrinth peace walk from 12:30–2PM. A monthly candlelight labyrinth walk is also offered. These are generally held on the second Friday of the month from 6–8PM, but check the cathedral calendar for exact times. If you’re interested in learning more, sign up for the labyrinth newsletter, or contact the church to sign up as a volunteer for the Labyrinth Guild.

Outdoor labyrinth © Jay Galvin/Flickr
Outdoor labyrinth | © Jay Galvin/Flickr

Beyond peace walks, Grace Cathedral offers visitors the chance to practice yoga on the labyrinth. Every Tuesday from 6:15 to 7:30PM (except in December), hatha yoga classes are led by Darren Main on the indoor labyrinth, set to live music by a variety of musicians. Hundreds of San Franciscans gather weekly from all parts of the city to practice in the cathedral, so arriving early is recommended. The classes are donation-based, so payment is optional, but a $10-20 donation is recommended. Mats are available for a $5 minimum donation, but they often run out quickly. Watch the video below for a taste of what to expect.

The cathedral is also renowned for its music. Aside from multiple choirs, the church features three magnificent organs and a forty-four bell carillon. Certain Sundays offer organ concerts. A variety of other concerts are offered throughout the year, as well, and a number of famous musicians have performed at the cathedral, like Carlos Santana and Bonnie Raitt. Check out the calendar to see what performances are coming up soon.

Grace Cathedral is also host to a number of works of art that visitors are welcome to explore. Check out the current and recent exhibits here, and learn about the cathedral’s most prominent pieces here.

Grace Cathedral organ © Marlon E/Flickr
Grace Cathedral organ | © Marlon E/Flickr

One more spot to explore is the AIDS Interfaith Memorial Chapel. Inspired by the AIDS pandemic of the 1980s and 90s, the chapel was established in 2000 in the cathedral’s north tower lobby. It features several dedicated works, including a casting of “The Life of Christ,” an altarpiece by artist Keith Haring, and the last piece he created before his own AIDS-related death. Other works include a panel from the NAMES AIDS Quilt, hanging from the ceiling, and a book of remembrance featuring almost 500 names.

The Keiskamma Altarpiece in the AIDS Interfaith Memorial Chapel © SF Brit/Flickr
The Keiskamma Altarpiece in the AIDS Interfaith Memorial Chapel | © SF Brit/Flickr