From Canvas To Tapestry To Stone…

Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral is home to a community where the best of Episcopal tradition courageously embraces innovation, inclusion and open-minded conversation. This is where the labyrinth movement gained momentum and international recognition starting in 1991.

Previously, labyrinths were slowly coming into awareness mostly through pioneers like Alex Champion, Richard Feather Anderson and Sig Lonegren. They would create temporary labyrinths for workshops and conferences. When Lauren opened a canvas Chartres -style labyrinth to the Bay Area community for 24 hours on New Years Eve and New Years Day 1991, labyrinth walking began to captivate seekers’ imagination from all walks of life.

The line at the labyrinth for this 24-hour event lasted six hours! They came in response to Don Lattin’s article in the SF Chronicle titled A Path to Enlightenment. The opening of the labyrinth was even reported on the evening news!

In March of 1991 the labyrinth was open on a regular basis twice a month; one time in silence and another with Musica Divina, a group of talented musicians who began singing the first time we opened it. Hundreds of people began to turn up, so much so it was becoming difficult to walk the labyrinth unimpeded by other walkers. As a consequence in 1994 Lauren commissioned a tapestry floor labyrinth—literally a 100% wool carpet—that was open during cathedral hours. This availability of the labyrinth established Grace Cathedral—already a renowned San Francisco landmark, and a magnet for diverse people to gather to worship, celebrate, seek solace and conversation—as a pilgrimage cathedral.

In 1995, the Melvin E. Swig Memorial Meditation Garden was created and the beautiful 40 foot Chartres -style Eleven Circuit Medieval Labyrinth was opened to the public. This allows the labyrinth to be open 24 hours a day. This terrazzo stone labyrinth widened the window already open for pilgrims and seekers to come to Grace Cathedral.

The Tapestry Labyrinth was walked by millions of people. It’s “cushy” surface invited people to take off their shoes to walk it as did the canvas surface it replaced. This is how the tradition of taking off one’s shoes began. It is done frequently to demarcate the “setting aside” of this special spiritual exercise. Taking one’s shoes off, however, is not recommended in French cathedrals.

In 1994 the Tapestry Labyrinth—still in remarkably good shape—was replaced by the indoor limestone and marble Chartres-style labyrinth. It was dedicated in 2007 by Alan Jones, the cathedral dean, The Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress, Honorary Canon and The Right Reverend Kathryn Jefferts-Shori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Grace Cathedral offers an inclusive Christian community that is both openhearted and open-minded. The Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress is liturgically present when she is home from her extensive travels speaking on the labyrinth. Come join us in San Francisco!

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