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St. Ignatius Church | History And Architecture
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St. Ignatius Church | History And Architecture

Picture of Megan Busch
Updated: 11 December 2015
St. Ignatius Church is a Jesuit parish that sits on the hilltop at the University of San Francisco (USF), with which it has a long history. St. Ignatius is focused on community building, the Sacramental life, and outreach to those in need, in the spirit of Jesuit tradition. St. Ignatius Church is staffed by priests of the Society of Jesus and is dedicated to the Society’s founder, Ignatius of Loyola.

This historic and beautiful church, with its rich history in San Francisco, is an important city landmark and an integral part of the University of San Francisco, the Jesuit community, and the surrounding neighborhood. USF hosts new student convocation and graduation inside the church every year, giving the students a dignified welcome to and farewell from the university. St. Ignatius’s mission also complements the university’s, offering social outreach opportunities, ministry programs, and two student-centered masses every Sunday.

History

The first St. Ignatius Church was located on Market Street between 4th and 5th, and was dedicated in July 1855, only six years after the first Jesuits arrived in San Francisco from Italy. The church’s history coincides with the history of the University of San Francisco: the first St. Ignatius Church on Market Street was built beside a small, wooden schoolhouse that became Saint Ignatius Academy, USF’s predecessor. As the church community continued to grow, the church was expanded to a three story building in 1862, and it became the second church. The following third church, located on Hayes Street and Van Ness Avenue, was built in 1880, along with the St. Ignatius College, where Davies Symphony Hall currently rests.

After the 1906 earthquake and consequent fire destroyed the church on Hayes and Van Ness, the Jesuits moved to a small, stucco building near Golden Gate Park. A few years later, an engineer named John E. Pope convinced the Jesuit community to purchase the land on Fulton and Parker Streets, where he envisioned a grand church towering over the city from the hilltop. The final (and current) location of St. Ignatius Church was constructed where he suggested by architect Charles J. I. Devlin between 1910 and 1914, and was dedicated on August 2, 1914.

Architecture

The exterior of the church is an ornate style often referred to as Jesuit Baroque, which draws inspiration from the Italian and Spanish Baroque. One of the most noticeable features of the exterior of the church is the use of massive columns and pilasters of the Ionic and Corinthian orders. Additionally, approximately a quarter of a million warm buff exterior face bricks with terra-cotta were used for detail along the exterior walls. The Italian-style, freestanding bell tower houses a three-ton bell that was cast in England in 1859 and still rings today. St. Ignatius also boasts a freestanding dome, one of the most magnificent features of the church, which is not visible from the inside.

Upon entering the church from Fulton Street, on each side of St. Ignatius are Corinthian columns supporting nine archways. The ceiling is incredibly ornate and beyond the side aisles are individual chapels, each with a domed ceiling and central skylight. The layout of the nave, the central part of the building where the congregation sits, is based on the ancient Roman basilica. The walls of the church are covered with beautiful stained-glass windows, which have been altered from their original amber glass. All of the church’s stained glass windows were the work of the Cummings Studios of San Francisco and different sections of the windows were installed between 1938–1942 and 1945–1962. The balcony windows were installed in 1953.

Mass Schedule

Saturday: 8AM, 12:05PM, 5PM (Vigil)

Sunday: 8AM, 9:30AM, 11AM, 5PM

Weekday: 8AM, 12:05PM

Holy Day of Obligation: 8AM, 12:05PM, 5PM

650 Parker Avenue, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 422 2188

By Megan Busch

A San Diego native, Megan is currently battling the San Francisco fog to finish her senior year at the University of San Francisco. A Communication Studies major with a minor in Sociology, she has a passion for traveling (after studying abroad in Florence, Italy) and a love of books and movies, exploring, hiking, and great food.