San Francisco’s Most Beautiful Cathedrals And Churches

Photo of Soraya Renteria
14 December 2016

San Francisco’s cathedrals and churches are as awe-inspiring as the city which they call home. From regal Gothic Revival stone temples to soaring golden onion domes, San Francisco’s cathedrals and churches draw from old world architectural traditions to convey unique San Franciscan sensibilities. Often hidden in residential neighborhoods, the following buildings offer visitors a rich understanding of the many cultures that make up this diverse west coast city.

© Marlith/WikiCommons

Grace Cathedral

Cathedral, Church
Map View
Grace Cathedral and Huntington Park with spring flowering trees, San Francisco
Grace Cathedral, San Francisco | © Paul Vidler / Alamy Stock Photo
Located in San Francisco’s elegant Nob Hill, Grace Cathedral is California’s Episcopal cathedral. Although completed in 1964, its Gothic Revival style lends it an old-world aura. In addition to its two labyrinths and mosaic murals depicting San Francisco history, Grace Cathedral often houses art installations. Guided tours of the cathedral and its history are offered regularly. You can also enjoy the soaring beauty of this cathedral’s Gothic architecture by participating in Yoga on the Labyrinth or taking in one of the concerts held within.

Holy Virgin Cathedral

Building, Cathedral
Map View
Holy Virgin Cathedral, San Francisco
Holy Virgin Cathedral, San Francisco | © Peter17/WikiCommons
Holy Virgin Cathedral‘s golden onion domes rise above the pastel houses of San Francisco’s Richmond neighborhood. The cathedral is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral outside of Russia. The building was designed by Oleg N. Ivanitsky. Inspired by traditional Russian architectural styles, the cathedral’s distinct onion domes are covered in gold leaf. Likewise, its interior sparkles with rich mosaics and gilt paintings of idols and religious scenes.

St. Patrick Church

Building, Church
Map View
St. Patrick's Catholic Church, San Francisco
St. Patrick's Catholic Church, San Francisco | © Chad K/Flickr
St. Patrick Church is a time capsule nestled in the sleek new SoMa neighborhood. Founded in 1851, this Roman Catholic church’s cornerstones were imported from Ireland. The church’s Irish roots are also evident in the building’s stained glass. St. Patrick Church has undergone extensive renovations; it was renovated after the 1906 earthquake and more recently during the Yerba Buena district renovation. Its humble brick façade houses a dramatic, Gothic-Revival interior that creates a tranquil refuge in the heart of the city.

Saints Peter and Paul Church

Cathedral, Church
Map View
Saints Peter and Paul Church, San Francisco
Saints Peter and Paul Church, San Francisco | © Allie_Caulfield/Flickr
Saints Peter and Paul Church, often called the ‘Italian Cathedral of the West,’ is located in North Beach’s Washington Square. With its intricately decorated twin spires, Saints Peter and Paul Church has appeared in several movies, including Dirty Harry, Deadpool, and Sister Act 2. The church’s bright interior takes inspiration from Italian Gothic styles and features exquisite ecclesiastical artworks.

Saint Ignatius Church

Church, University
Map View
The present Saint Ignatius Church, part of the University of San Francisco, was built in 1914. It is the fifth iteration of the church in San Francisco and one of the city’s largest churches. Saint Ignatius mixes Italian and Spanish Baroque elements to produce one of San Francisco’s most beautiful churches. Inside Saint Ignatius Church, the floor plan is based on the ancient Roman Basilica, and many of its decorative motifs feature ancient allegories. In addition, within the church you can find the Manresa Gallery, a fine arts gallery which features Bay Area artists.

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