49 Mile Drive: Stop Two, Cathedral Hill

Today we stopped by St. Mary’s Cathedral, or more properly known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption. The main thing I would like to assume is that the architect had a few vision problems.

This is not your average cathedral. It’s very modern in design and this was it’s third incarnation. Here’s what I could find on the architecture of the site via Wikipedia:

“The cathedral is located in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption replaced two previous churches of the same name successively. The first original cathedral was built in 1854 and still stands today and is now known as Old Saint Mary’s Church. In 1891, a second cathedral was constructed but was destroyed by arson in 1962. The present-day cathedral was commissioned just as Vatican II was convening in Rome. Prescriptions of the historic church council allowed the Archdiocese of San Francisco to plan boldly in the building of its new cathedral. That resulted in the modern design of the present structure. The cornerstone was laid on December 13, 1967, and the cathedral was completed three years later. On May 5, 1971, the cathedral was blessed and on October 5, 1996, was formally dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the name of Saint Mary of the Assumption. The first papal mass was celebrated by Pope John Paul II in the cathedral in 1987.

It ran the private all-female Cathedral High School, in a building adjoined to the present-day cathedral itself. CHS merged with nearby all-male private Sacred Heart High School in 1987. St. Mary’s Cathedral still has close ties to the resulting Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, which uses the cathedral as its principal church for masses and other special events, such as graduation.”

[mappress mapid=”2″]That’s pretty much all of what is there to see on Cathedral Hill. Other than that it’s pretty much just apartment buildings and down a block there used to be the old Jack Tar Cathedral Hill Hotel. Which will be torn down to make way for a new CPMC medical building. The insides of the cathedral are rather interesting as they adhere to the modernist design of the times. I will say one thing is that you have more of a feeling of warm inside with all the wood instead of the coldness of the stone of a place like say, Grace Cathedral. Didn’t get too much time to take pictures, but I got what I thought were some of the best expressions of what the inside feels like. You don’t get as loud an echo as you do in other cathedrals probably because of the wood. Another interesting note is that it has been called by locals as, “Our Lady of Maytag” due to the fact that the building looks a bit like the agitator of a washing machine. The worst part is you don’t have too think to hard to see that.

Update: A couple of my friends on Facebook posted to me that I left out the “Two o’clock titty” as Herb Caen referred to it. If you look at the picture you can see the shadow forming a breast on the Cathedral. Thanks to Libby and Harry!