St. John’s of the Wilderness Cathedral


St. John’s of the Wilderness Cathedral is a sprawling Catholic church occupying an entire city block just north of the Capitol Building in Denver.  The complex consists of the original cathedral with further newly renovated construction branching off of the older building.  The Cathedral is built in the style of Gothic Revival with typical pointed arches, flying buttresses, massive piers, ribbed and soaring vaulted ceilings, heavy masonry walls, with large stained glass windows.


The Cathedral’s program consists of two side aisles created by a stone arcade, and the main aisle running down the middle of the space on axis with the main doors and the raised ceremonial area at the front of the church.  Entry is afforded through the traditional large doors in the back, and the side door from the addition.  Pews are positioned in between the two arcades with a break about one third of the way down the aisle.  The clergy occupy the front of the church near the elevated pulpit, with lavers for ceremonial washing at the rear of the church and adjacent to the raised front.


Main circulation takes place down the middle aisle with additional circulation on the edges of the space behind the arcades.


Some of the details include the spacious stained glass windows depicting various Biblical imagery and stories.  The masonry frame of the windows is elaborate and arched.  Lavers for Holy Water are strategically placed throughout the church for washing at the entry and exit of mass, and near the tables for communion as well.  The pulpit is elevated above the main floor with an elaborate wrought iron handrail decorated with religious symbols such as crosses and phrases like “in Christ.”  Gilded pendants adorn the ribbing in the vaulted ceiling.  False columns also adorn the piers of the arcade and turn into the ribbing to support the roof.  Finally, a massive wooden organ occupies half of the back of the Cathedral.

Materials of the Cathedral consist entirely of stone blocks, with wooden pews, stained glass windows, wrought iron railings, and tapestries.

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Note: Some images are included due to the intricacy of the detail, and my desire for you to glimpse the intense beauty of the space which my own fingers could not fully capture.


2 thoughts on “St. John’s of the Wilderness Cathedral

  1. This is a beautiful church, and I appreciate your analysis of use, circulation, and details! Had you been in the church prior to the analysis? If so, was there anything different that you noticed this time?


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