Stunning structures

Salt Lake City, San Francisco offer visitors great architectural achievements

The Salt Lake Temple, which took 40 years to build, is the largest Latter-day Saints temple in the world. Only members in good standing are allowed inside.
The Salt Lake Temple, which took 40 years to build, is the largest Latter-day Saints temple in the world. Only members in good standing are allowed inside.

Editor's note: This is the second part in a two-part series.

Last week's story featured the massive Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington and the Bahai House of Worship north of Chicago. This week's story highlights one of Utah's biggest tourist attractions and a historic Episcopal cathedral in San Francisco.


Headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Temple Square in Salt Lake City has a variety of sites for visitors to see, including the architectural wonder that is the Mormon Tabernacle.


Grace Cathedral

A statue of St. Francis greets visitors as they enter Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. The cathedral is fi lled with art, including murals, tapestries and icons.


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Mormon Tabernacle, located in Temple Square in Salt Lake City, is home to the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir.


Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral, built in a French-Gothic style, has been featured in several movies, as well as in novels and comic books.

The egg-shaped, domed building is home to the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the building is said to be an acoustic masterpiece.

Elder Don R. Clarke, who arranges Temple Square visits for ambassadors and dignitaries, said it's possible for a person sitting at the back of the room to hear a pin dropped at the front, some 170 feet away.

The 35-acre Temple Square also features the six-spired Salt Lake Temple, which tourists can only view from the outside. Only church members in good standing are allowed inside, but an open-sided scale model of the temple is on display in the South Visitors' Center and it gives visitors a look at the rooms inside, which include instruction rooms, a baptismal font, the celestial room (which represents heaven on earth), and sealing rooms where marriages are performed.

"It's sacred, not secret," Clarke said about the temple.

Brigham Young, the Mormon leader who led the pioneers to Salt Lake City from Illinois, selected the site for the temple in 1847, four days after arriving in the valley. The cornerstone was laid in 1853, and construction took 40 years.

Unlike the temple, the tabernacle is open to the public, as are weekly rehearsals by the choir. The choir has been away on tour but will be back on Sunday. Visitors can listen to rehearsals on most Thursdays from 7:30-9:30 p.m. and during the Music and the Spoken Word broadcasts at 9:30 a.m. Sundays.

Completed in 1867, the tabernacle is 250 feet long, 150 feet wide and 75 feet high and was constructed so the roof had no center supports to block the view of the audience. A national historic landmark and a national civil engineering landmark, the tabernacle features an 11,623-pipe pipe organ that accompanies the choir.

"I don't know anyone who comes here that isn't impressed," Clarke said.

Clarke said Temple Square has about 6 million visitors a year, including Latter-day Saints and tourists from around the world. Most come from the United States, then Canada, followed by China. He said visitors from China are often interested in the Seagull Monument.

"When the pioneers first came there was nothing but desert and they planted crops ... and crickets came and started to eat the crops," Clarke said. "The sea gulls (from the Great Salt Lake) came to eat the crickets and saved the crops."

Temple Square is open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. Free tours start on the hour from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. and can be booked online at Self-guided tours also are available.

Temple Square is at 50 W. North Temple. Information is available on the website or by calling (801) 531-1000.


Grace Cathedral in San Francisco is the third-largest Episcopal cathedral in the United States.

Construction of the French Gothic building started in 1927, and after a halt in building during the Great Depression, the cathedral was finally consecrated in 1964. Built in the shape of a cross, the cathedral features twin towers that are 174 feet tall from street level, with the spire rising 247 feet above the street.

The cathedral has hosted famous visitors over the years, including Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama, presidents and dignitaries. It also has been featured in movies, including The Pleasure of His Company starring Fred Astaire, in scenes from Bullitt starring Steve McQueen, as well as short cameos in films like The Wedding Planner and Milk.

The cathedral has 68 stained glass windows, including three unusual ones -- The Gift by Narcissus Quagliata, which shows the Milky Way galaxy inside a human silhouette and windows featuring Albert Einstein and astronaut John Glenn.

Kelly Costello, church spokesman, said other highlights include the colorful murals lining the interior walls, which depict not only the history of the church but historical events from San Francisco, including the 1906 earthquake. The Doors of Paradise at the front of the cathedral are replicas of the doors of the Baptistery of St. John in Florence, Italy crafted by Lorenzo Ghiberti. The 16-foot doors each weigh more than a ton and feature panels showing scenes from Old Testament stories, including Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai and David slaying Goliath.

Another highlight is the AIDS chapel honoring those who died of the disease. The chapel features a triptych altar piece created by New York pop artist Keith Haring.

The cathedral's website features some of the top things to see and do while visiting, including walking labyrinths, stopping by for Tuesday night yoga (which Costello said draws hundreds each week), attending music performances or an Evensong service, lighting a candle for a loved one and taking a tour.

Free docent-led tours are available from 1-3 p.m. Monday-Thursday and sometimes on Friday, as well as 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturday and after the 11 a.m. service on Sunday (around 12:30 p.m.). Visitors can check for available times and sign up for the free tours online at

The Grace Cathedral Grand Tour is $25 and features some behind-the-scenes areas and includes a climb up the 94 stairs of the South Tower. The 90-minute tour is for those 10 and older. Tickets can be bought through the same website.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Costello said.

Another option is to explore the cathedral with the new smartphone app GraceGuide.

The cathedral is at 1100 California St. Information is available online at or by calling (415) 749-6300.

Religion on 07/23/2016

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