Historic Detroit

Every building in Detroit has a story — we're here to share it

Cathedral Church of St. Paul

St. Paul’s congregation dates back to 1824, when Territorial Governor Lewis Cass granted a charter for the first Episcopal congregation in the Northwest Territory. This cathedral on Woodward Avenue and Hancock Street is the congregation's third home.

Though it was dedicated May 17, 1911, its first service was held three months earlier, on Feb. 7. It was designed by Ralph Adams Cram of Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson, who built the Neo Gothic-style church the medieval way: without steel. The church is regarded as one of Cram's best works.

A tower was proposed to be built over the crossing of the nave and transepts, but it was never built.

“This cathedral stands on the most crowded of thoroughfares in the heart of a great city,” said the Very Rev. Samuel S. Marquis, the cathedral’s first dean. “It is the symbol of the spiritual in the midst of all that is material.”

As the cathedral, St. Paul’s is considered the mother church for the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, and serves as the campus for that organization.

The Cathedral is the first of the historic churches in Detroit to experiment with contemporary design. The thirty-six stained windows in the clerestory, eighteen on each side, are quite different from the stained glass in the rest of the church. They are abstract in design and interpret the First Day of Creation according to Genesis, "Let there be light".

Progressing from darkness to light, the windows show the days symbolically as they lead the one's eyes to the high altar. Depending on the time of the day, the clerestory windows up on the south facade throw beautifully colored shapes onto the opposing side of the church, as shown in some of the pictures in Photos .

The funeral service for Henry Ford was held at the Cathedral on Thursday April 9, 1947.

More on this beautiful church coming soon.