The United States has plenty of churches but most lack both the patina of history and decent design. When St. Mary's Cathedral was completed in San Francisco in 1971 (probably one of the last "Modernist" structures built in the city) the local columnist Herb Caen was one of the first to point out its resemblance to a washing machine agitator. Since the Bureau of Odd Shaped Objects established itself in its present location, St. Mary's has been part of the view out the back window. Here's St. Mary's at dawn. (You can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.)
I had seen it in the distance and driven by it for 33 years but had never thought of visiting it until a week ago when Mme Le Chef and I were on the way back from the Japan Center (fantastic ramen at Sopporo-Ya). There was a parking place in front of the cathedral and she suggested we take a look. We did and were impressed by the power of the interior.
The most salient aspect of St. Mary's is that, unlike traditional churches, it has floor to ceiling windows that open on to various vistas of San Francisco.
If we can see them from the bureau, then they can see us. Here is the bureau's home, Bernal Heights, with that clump of trees on top, as seen from St. Mary's.
The high roof of the "agitator" allows for a towering ceiling inside.
The pipe organ.
The window over the main doors.
This is the other side of the window which faces the street.
Straight on the cathedral looks less like an appliance and more like a samurai's helmet.
It's worth a look if you're in the city.