Sights ~ Cathedral of St. John, Providence

Cathedral of St. John
271 N. Main St.
Providence, Rhode Island

During a walk around College Hill a couple of weeks ago, we came across what looked like a run-down, boarded-up church. I didn't recognize it until we came down the hill to Main Street, and I realized it was the Cathedral of St. John, part of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island.

Cathedral of St. John

I felt rather foolish, because the Cathedral is on a main thoroughfare and is visible from many places around the city. In fact, I have a shot of it that I took from a window in the State House. Somewhere.

Coincidentally, the Providence Preservation Society released its 2010 list of Most Endangered Properties the very next day. Guess who made the list? A couple of days after that, Bear and I were able to tour the interior of the sanctuary. I have to say, the Deacon, Dean and administrative staff that we met were very welcoming.

Far from being a boarded up building, the Cathedral has an active ecclesiastic life. Yes, some of the windows are broken and the "deteriorated church tower is causing the rotting of wood structural elements as well as cracking and crumbling of the interior plaster walls and the sanctuary ceiling"(per the Diocese Web site).

ceiling damage        Ceiling damage        multihued window w window damage

But the interior is otherwise well-kept and tended. The architecture is beautiful, inside and out.


The church was founded in 1722, then called Kings Church. Its name was changed to St. John's Church in 1794. The current building was built in 1810 and designed by architect John Holden Greene. It became the seat of the Episcopal diocese in 1929, changing its designation to Cathedral.

In 1866 a transept was added to the building, creating a cross shape and adding the small chapel. Then in 1906, the current altar section was added.


Small chapel
Small chapel

Like so many other churches, the artwork is inspired, and is in all kinds of media.

I couldn't get a good shot, but I loved this pelican at the peak above the altar:

These silver candlesticks and cross are original to the congregation:
Silver cross and candlesticks - original to congregation

As is the baptismal font:
Baptismal font

The Cathedral also boasts some beautiful stained glass windows
Stained glass window

and an 1851 E. and G.G. Hook organ:
organ pipes

St. John's is a beautiful building, obviously well-loved with a thriving congregation that serves the community at large with a food pantry and city meal location. I hope that between the congregation and the community, they can raise the funds to make the repairs that will bring the building back to its full glory. has a history of the Cathedral: From corner lot to city block: The story of the Cathedral of Saint John, Providence.

UPDATE: The Diocese closed the church in 2012.
In 2014, the Diocese expressed interest in converting the building into a museum focusing on the slave trade in Rhode Island. 

See additional photos and information on the architecture and history of the building at PPS' Endangered Places, Emerging Stories.


  1. Thank you so very much for sharing the Cathedral with your readership. Your pictures are wonderful! And your history is really quite well done.
    Take care,
    Deacon Barbara Mays-Stock
    Cathedral of Saint John, Providence

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