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Cathedral Church of St. Paul (St. Paul's Protestant Episcopal Cathedral)

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St. Paul's Protestant Episcopal Cathedral
1908–1911, Ralph Adams Cram. 4800 Woodward Ave.
  • (Photograph by Balthazar Korab)
  • (Photograph by Balthazar Korab)

In 1906 St. Paul's Church officially became the bishop's church and was offered the opportunity to establish a cathedral. Within two years Ralph Adams Cram of Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson of Boston and New York City was called on to design an appropriate cathedral for the diocese. The limestone Gothic Revival cathedral has a narrow-gabled and buttressed nave with side aisles, clerestory, and transepts. A rose window is positioned over the pointed-arched entrance portal between projecting buttresses that support pinnacles.

The nave of the grand interior has a pointed-arched arcade resting on smooth columns. Four huge cylindrical piers at the crossing of the nave and transepts were intended to carry the unexecuted tower over the crossing. In the south transept a spiral staircase rises to a gallery faced with carvings of musicians. The woodwork was made by William F. Ross and Company of Cambridge, Massachusetts, although Joseph Kirchmayer of Oberammergau carved the reredos of the sanctuary, the bishop's seat, the dean's stall (with its pinnacled canopies), and the lectern in dark oak. The Pewabic Pottery tile floor shows brown glazes in the narthex and nave, tan in the chancel and choir, and blue in the sanctuary. Here a pelican feeding drops of her own blood to her young symbolizes the mother church sustaining young churches. Designed and executed by Heaton, Butler and Bayne of London and Charles J. Connick of Boston, stained glass in brilliant colors fills the windows. J&R Lamb, William and Henry Lee Willet, Franz Mayer, and Powell and Whitefriars studios also manufactured windows to an overall theme planned by Cram, states Barbara Krueger of the Michigan Stained Glass Census.

Cram explained in Detroit's Saturday Night Press in 1924, “In St. Paul's Cathedral an attempt has been made to adapt to modern ideals, conditions, and environment that style of architecture which Christian civilization developed for its own self-expression, the so-called Gothic of the middle ages.” The architect expressed through modern forms the spirit of the Gothic. Albert A. Albrecht Company and the Vinton Company constructed the cathedral under supervision of George D. Mason, who was a member of the parish.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert

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