Pilgrimage of Sacred Spaces – Detroit – St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral

St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral.

The roots of the worshipping community of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral dates back to 1760 and the church received its first charter in 1825 making it the oldest Episcopal church in the north-western United States. The current cathedral opened in 1908 is the third church building in its rich history.

It is a beautiful Gothic Revival church designed by the great American architect, Ralph Adams Cram. We have seen Cram designs in other American cities we have visited and they are always among the highlights of a tour of sacred spaces. His designs take the pilgrim back to the great Gothic edifices of pre-Renaissance Europe. There is a transcendence of time in all of his buildings and with it an unspoken invitation to focus on the eternal and the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Apart from the enormous sense of space one feels with the length and width and height of St. Paul’s the Cram appointed furnishings are consistent and even inspiring in their own right. The decor of St. Paul’s includes treasured works of art such as the carved wooden retable above the altar by John Kirchmayer of Oberammergau and two Raphael tapestries from 1516-1519. While the stained glass features work by some of the finest studios of the 20th century, Mayer of Munich; Willet; Charles Connick and others, the glass to the left and right of the main altar was purchased from a Spanish church and dates back to 1500.

There are so many other artistic gems and architectural features from the floor to the ceiling that the list could soon become a book. However, the clerestory windows will not escape notice as they are one of the few elements in the decor with a clear modern design. They are vivid and undoubtedly enhance the brightness of the otherwise dark space, but more importantly they are a reminder that the church is not simply a remnant of a previous age. They invite the worshipper to bring their modern struggles into prayer and to let the gospel speak into the issues of the day bringing inspiration, light and hope.

One of our pilgrims, Rob Mee, a gifted musician and photographer has posted some absolutely remarkable photos of this sacred space along with the others we visited and can be viewed on his website at: https://focusonmee.com/detroit-michigan/

Grace and Peace,