The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption or simply called as Saint Mary?s Cathedral among San Franciscans is situated in the city?s Cathedral Hill community and is the primary church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco. St. Mary?s Cathedral is actually the third Roman Catholic worship place built in the city bearing the same name. The first one was constructed in 1854 and is still functioning and now known as Old Saint Mary?s Church. In 1891, another St. Mary?s Cathedral was built but was burnt down by arson in 1962.
The current St. Mary?s Cathedral was commissioned during the same time that the famous Vatican II was gathering in Rome. Recommendations of this historic church council permitted the Archdiocese of San Francisco to create a modern and contemporary design for the new church. The Archdiocese tapped into the talents of San Franciscan architects Angus McSweeney, Paul A. Ryan and John Michael Lee. The trio took the design of the cathedral further by seeking the expert advice of globally acclaimed architects Pier Luigi Nervi and Pietro Belluschi who was then serving as the Dean of the School of Architecture of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or MIT. St. Mary's Cathedral?s cornerstone was put in place on December 13, 1967 and the entire church was completed in 1971. It was officially dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary bearing the name of Saint Mary of the Assumption. The pioneering papal mass was held here in 1987 celebrated by Pope John Paul II.
Aside from being an important worship site for the devout Catholics of San Francisco, St. Mary?s Cathedral is also a site to behold for tourists and architecture buffs. Following the Expressionist Modern design aesthetics, the structural lines of the cathedral emanates from each of its four corners gracefully treading upwards converging in the center to form a cross. Its reinforced concrete roof is glistening white as it is cladded using white Italian marble.
The cathedral?s cupola is held by four corner pillars which towers at 19 stories and reach 27 meters deep into the bedrock to create a more stable foundation. The architects utilized approximately 1,600 individual pieces of pre-fabricated, 128 different sizes triangularly-shaped coffers to distribute the heaviness of the cathedral?s massive dome. The total height of the building reaches 190 feet with a 17-meter-tall golden cross crowning the entire structure.
St. Mary?s Cathedral?s interior is just as impressive as its exterior. It boasts of large windows which offer a breathtaking view of San Francisco. The floor is made out of red bricks which pay tribute to the Spanish Mission history of California. The centerpiece St. Mary?s Cathedral inside is a kinetic sculpture created by Richard Lippold. The avant-garde art piece is fifteen stories high and weighs one ton. It features 14 levels of triangular aluminum bars and is beautifully lighted in amber-yellowish hue.
St. Mary?s Cathedral can hold as much as 2,500 people. In 2007, the local branch of the American Institute of Architects cited the cathedral as one of San Francisco?s Top 25 Buildings. With all the recognitions it received throughout its existence, some critics dubbed St. Mary?s Cathedral as ?Our Lady of Maytag? or ?McGucken?s Maytag? due to its similarity in form to a larger-than-life washing machine agitator.