The Cathedral Church of St. Paul is the seat of the bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts. As host to the mission of the Diocese, frequent meetings and events as well as worship services take place at the cathedral church. In the midst of the very active life of the Diocese of Massachusetts, which is among the largest Episcopal dioceses in the United States, the cathedral's doors remain open to all. For many it is simply what it has always been - a quiet place for prayer and meditation.
Office Hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Address and Phone Numbers:
138 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02111
617-482-5800 (toll free in eastern Massachusetts: 800-696-6079)
E-mail: elc [at] diomass [dot] org
The Founding and Building of St. Paul's Church
St. Paul's Church, Boston's fourth Episcopal church, was established in 1818 by a group of wealthy and influential Boston patriots who decided to found a distinctly American Episcopal parish. The two existing Episcopal churches, Christ Church (Old North), established in 1722, and Trinity Church, founded in 1733 on downtown Summer Street, had been formed before the American Revolution. The oldest Anglican parish, King's Chapel (1686), had already been swept away by the rising tide of Unitarianism.
The original St. Paul's Church founders include such names as Amory, Revere, Winthrop, Pickering, Tudor, Bowdoin, Tyng, Hale, Greene, Reynolds, Gerry and Hancock. Members of the building committee included George Sullivan, John and George Odin, Daniel Webster, William Appleton, Shubael Bell, William Shimmin, Francis Wilby, Henry Codman and David Sears.
In 1819, the founders commissioned Alexander Parris and Solomon Willard to construct a Greek temple to contrast with the existing colonial and "gothick" structures of the town. St. Paul's Church was consecrated by Bishop Alexander Viets Griswold on June 30, 1820.
The first example of Greek Revival architecture in Boston, St. Paul's contrasted strongly with the colonial meeting house appearance of the Park Street Church (1809) across Tremont Street. The light Quincy granite, used for the body of the building, was brought from the quarries on the first railroad operated in the United States. The Ionic columns on the portico are of brown sandstone quarried near Acquia Creek in Stafford County, Virginia. To symbolize the patriotic fervor that inspired the church, a stone from Valley Forge in Pennsylvania was also included.
The exterior of the church remained virtually unchanged since the time of its construction until the spring of 2013, when the unfinished pediment (originally intended to contain a carved frieze representing Saint Paul preaching before King Agrippa) was installed with a major new sculpture. The cross-section of a chambered nautilus, "Ship of Pearl" by artist Donald Lipski, was officially lit on May 8, 2013.
The interior of the church has undergone repeated and extensive redecoration. The current curved apse is a later addition to what was originally a nearly square New England meeting house interior.
In the most recent interior redecoration in 1986, the walls and ceiling were painted in a polychromatic style, new granite flooring laid in the aisles, and the baptismal font moved from a side aisle to its current location, the majestic but initimidating wineglass pulpit removed and replaced by the more simple pulpit-lectern, a free-standing altar constructed and a dramatic cross bontonnee suspended over the altar.
St. Paul's Church becomes the Cathedral
As early as 1876, a discussion of the question "Shall there be a Bishop's church in Boston?" was printed in the local newspapers. In 1904, it was announced that two sisters, Mary Sophia and Harriet Sarah Walker, had left an estate of more than a million dollars for the purpose of building, establishing, and maintaining a cathedral or bishop's church of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the city of Boston. In 1908, the Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Massachusetts was founded.
To symbolize that the new cathedral was indeed "a house of prayer for all people," Bishop Lawrence arranged for the doors to the pews to be removed.
In 1988, after 100 years on Beacon Hill's Joy Street, the diocesan offices moved to the building adjacent to the cathedral; the cathedral now functions as a center of mission and hosts important events in the life of the diocese, including Diocesan Conventions and Confirmation services.
October 12, 2007