The cathedral of St. John the Evangelist is one of Spokane, Washington’s architectural jewels. Located on Grand Boulevard above the hospitals, St. John’s towers majestically over the neighboring landscape on Spokane’s south hill, and is visible from many parts of the city including I-90. An Episcopal cathedral, it’s the Spokane Diocese which includes Eastern Washington and the Idaho Panhandle.
The massive stone exterior is only a hint of the grandeur of what lies inside. The first time I walked into the cathedral, my eyes were immediately drawn up to the beautiful stone detail and lace work tracery in the upper stained glass windows and the huge California redwood beams supporting the tall ceiling. The stained glass windows are breathtaking on the inside, especially on a sunny day. Beautiful symbolic details are throughout the interior. In addition, thousands of pipes from the famous Skinner organ are in eye-catching groups in the cathedral. There also is a carillon with forty-nine cast bells with a range of four octaves. The biggest bell weighing 5,000 pounds has the nickname, Big John. The carillon can be heard daily in nearby areas, and in the summer people enjoy picnics on the cathedral lawns while listening to the concerts.
Construction for St. John’s started in 1925 and is the only cathedral this side of the Mississippi designed in the style of a thirteenth century English gothic cathedral. It also has French influenced detail and is the brainchild of Spokane’s famous architect, Harold Whitehouse, who also was a member of the congregation. Donors are still needed to finish the last of the massive stained glass windows.
In the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, when literacy was low, stained glass windows and mosaics told Bible stories as well as local history. In that same tradition, even though literacy is much higher, stained glass windows still tell the same stories. If you go on a tour of St. John’s, you will learn the meanings of the windows depicting biblical stories and local history.
The northwest pillar by the organ has a fascinating cornerstone containing inserted stones – one each from the Mount of Olives, the ancient Glastonbury Abbey in the United Kingdom, the first Episcopal church in Jamestown, Virginia, and the former All Saints Cathedral in Spokane.
In addition to volunteers offering tours, there are many concerts throughout the year hosted by the cathedral. One of my favorite Christmas memories was attending a Christmas Eve service at St. John’s and experiencing the beauty of the organ and choir in the majestic cathedral setting. The atmosphere was enchanting, and I felt as if transported to Europe.
Have you been to St. John’s? What is your favorite memory?