The Newly Restored Cathedral Church in San Francisco and Its Consecration
(From our correspondent)
Through the mercy of God and the efforts of our Archpastor, on the 16th of November last, the Orthodox population of the city of San Francisco celebrated the consecration of their newly rebuilt Cathedral temple. Our Cathedral cannot of course be called "ancient". It has been in existence for only 27 years, reckoning from the year 1870 with the establishment here of the cathedra of the bishop of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska. But, even in the course of this comparatively short time period the cathedral underwent many restorations for various reasons. The Cathedral was originally built in honor of the Holy Orthodox Prince Alexander Nevsky. Then, in 1888, it was expanded by Bishop Vladimir and consecrated in honor of Saint Nicholas. In 1890 there occurred a fire, which ruined everything in the temple. Thus it was necessary to renew frescos and the iconostasis, as well as other objects, after which the Cathedral was dedicated to the memory of St. Basil the Great. Now our Cathedral has been consecrated to the glory of the Holy and Life-giving Trinity.
Our parishioners were unable to recall a more solemn and majestic ceremony than the consecration of the Cathedral. The interior of the temple looks quite splendid. In the past, visitors to our Cathedral were shocked by the absence of any symmetry: the Royal Doors were located to the side; the Holy Cross, which normally crowns the iconostasis and is located right above the Royal Doors, used to stand somewhat to the side. This was especially striking, since the cross was big and made of multicolored stained glass. Now, everything has been corrected. The iconostasis is two-tiered; its new shape is in perfect harmony with the rest of the temple. While the temple walls have been finished with white paint to look like marble, the iconostasis has been painted bright purple with gold trimming. It appears that the white and red colors are necessary not only for esthetic reasons but symbolic as well. However, the main adornment of the temple is the representation of the Life-giving Trinity painted on glass. This has been depicted on the three-paned window located in the eastern wall of the sanctuary, opposite the Holy Altar. On the middle pane the Holy Spirit is depicted; on the right God the Father; on the left God the Son. Below are positioned groups of angels on clouds. The holy icons rest on mosaic bases donated to His Grace by Russian exhibitors at the Chicago [Worlds] Fair. This icon is especially splendid at sunrise, when the fine details of the painting stand out clearly and distinctly from its background. Here, as well, the high place is arranged in accordance with the custom in cathedral churches in Russia. This was not the case in our cathedral before, and it was very apparent.
By November 15, all work was completed. The diligent women of the parish had sewn new vestments for the Holy Altar; other items were purchased with collected funds, and on November 16 the consecration took place. Taking part in the festivities of the consecration were the clergy of the cathedral church and the clergy of the Seattle mission. On the eve of the consecration, in accordance with the church typikon, Vigil was celebrated in the center of the temple: no light was lit in the altar. His Grace officiated at the Litiya and Polyeleion himself. The service was solemn and lengthy. On the day of the consecration the Liturgy began at 9 oclock in the morning. At its consecration the altar was washed with fine towels that were sent to his Grace by the schoolgirls of the Kenai [AK] school. There was no light in the temple, and the very first lamp was lit by the Archpastor himself. Then other lamps were lit and candles were distributed to the people. After the consecration of the altar, the walls were anointed with Holy Chrism, and the cross procession around the church took place. Then Divine Liturgy was celebrated with a service of thanksgiving in commemoration of this festal event. After the consecration of the temple, Vladyka addressed those present with a sermon on the importance of temples and communal prayer. The beautiful singing of our choir under direction of P. Popoff greatly enhanced the solemnity of the service, as did the beautiful reading of the reader P. Grepachevsky in Slavonic and altar server Anthony Verra in Greek.
At the conclusion of the service a meal was served at the residence of his Grace of which partook nearly 100 people. Present at the meal were the builders of the temple Orthodox Arabs.
On November 21 in the newly consecrated temple subdeacon Theodore Pashkovsky was ordained a deacon, and on November 23 a priest.
Priest Th. P-ky
Nov. 23, 1897
The American Orthodox Messenger, No. 8, 15-27 December 1897, p. 266.
Translated from the Russian.