In Your Midst

Seattle’s St. James Cathedral

Spring 2000

House of God, Gate of Heaven:
Seattle’s St. James Cathedral

is a 124-page “coffee table” book
with over 250 color photographs.
The book was designed and edited
by Jackie O’Ryan and is being published
by Éditions du Signe in Strasbourg, France.
The book will be available next month
in the Cathedral Bookstore.
While the square does not exist in nature – it is created by the human hand – a circle must be the cornerstone of heaven.

The interior design of St. James Cathedral is the recurring theme of the book House of God, Gate of Heaven. The building’s structure is an unending integration of the circle and the square. The focal point is its altar, a square, gleaming white vision in stone, placed on a circle of slate at the center of our gathered assembly under the dome. This design symbolically engages the human and the divine, earth and heaven, and is just one element that renders this sacred space a meeting place with God.

Like all cathedrals, St. James is a profound teaching device illuminating the stories and mysteries of our faith. The bronze ceremonial doors, the magnificent stained-glass windows, the ambo and shrines, and the placement of the Baptistry, all demonstrate the journey to heaven and guide us on that journey.

In This Issue:

This book reveals how the beauty of this holy place is not just an aesthetic marvel. The placement of the altar table, the symbol of Christ, in the center of our gathering has reshaped the way in which we worship together — the fruit of which has been that we, as a community, continually celebrate our differences, speak out together at injustices and show compassion for the poor and vulnerable.

For the cover of this book we chose parishioner Craig Harrold’s photo looking through the oculus Dei (eye of God) high above the altar. It was taken during the 1994 renovation before the skylight’s window frame had been installed. Harrold’s beautiful photos can be seen throughout the book.

In House of God, Gate of Heaven, another parishioner Robert Clark, a nationally acclaimed author, gives us the intimate story of his conversion at St. James; David Brewster, a noted Seattle journalist, talks of the Cathedral’s impact on the life of this city; and local historian David Buerge offers the remarkable history of St. James. Stephen Lee, project architect for the 1994 renovation, provides a fascinating essay including a significant section detailing elements of that renovation and their liturgical importance. Archbishop Alex J. Brunett concludes this book with a personal reflection.

House of God, Gate of Heaven reveals a cathedral church, a parish church and a vibrant church in the city. As our pastor, Father Michael G. Ryan, states in his foreword, “the pages of this book picture and portray some of the holy and beautiful people and things that make up Seattle’s St. James Cathedral.” 

Jackie O’Ryan is the director of public affairs at Catholic Community Services of Western Washington and a parishioner at St. James Cathedral.

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