The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, also known locally as Saint Mary's Cathedral, is the principal church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, California.
The cathedral is located in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood of San Francisco and replaced two previous churches of the same name successively. The first original cathedral was built in 1854 and still stands today and is now known as Old Saint Mary's Church. In 1891, a second cathedral was constructed but was destroyed by arson in 1962. The present-day cathedral was commissioned just as Vatican II was convening in Rome. Prescriptions of the historic church council allowed the Archdiocese of San Francisco to plan boldly in the building of its new cathedral. That resulted in the modern design of the present structure. The cornerstone was laid on December 13, 1967, and the cathedral was completed three years later. On May 5, 1971, the cathedral was blessed and on October 5, 1996, was formally dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the name of Saint Mary of the Assumption. The first papal mass was celebrated by Pope John Paul II in the cathedral in 1987.
In San Francisco it has become a landmark that annually draws thousands of people to this sacred structure, which combines the rich traditions of the Catholic faith with modern technology.
The cathedral's striking design flows from the geometric principle of the hyperbolic paraboloid, in which the structure curves upward in graceful lines from the four corners meeting in a cross.
Measuring 255 feet (77m) square, the cathedral soars to 190 feet high and is crowned with a 55 foot (16m) golden cross. Four corner pylons, each one designed to withstand ten million pounds of pressure, support the cupola, which rises 19 stories above the floor. At each corner of the cathedral, vast windows look out upon spectacular views of San Francisco, the City of Saint Francis of Assisi. The cathedral's red brick floor recalls early Mission architecture, and the rich heritage of the local church.
Its saddle roof is composed of eight segments of hyperbolic paraboloids, in such a fashion that the bottom horizontal cross section of the roof is a square and the top cross section is a cross. The design is reminiscent of St. Mary's Cathedral in Tokyo, which was built earlier in the decade by Kenzo Tange.
Due to its resemblance to a large washing machine agitator, the cathedral has been nicknamed "Our Lady of Maytag" or "McGucken's Maytag". The building was selected in 2007 by the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects for a list of San Francisco's top 25 buildings.