TripAdvisor.com has recently named our Indianapolis Scottish Rite Cathedral as one of “America’s 20 Most Beautiful Churches, Cathedrals & Basilicas Worth Visiting.”
For those who don't know (which includes most of our own citizens who walk or drive past it every day), the Cathedral is not a church and it's not Scottish, either. Indianapolis' is unique because it is the only one on the TripAdvisor list that was not designed as a religious house of worship, but as a ceremonial clubhouse for a fraternal organization, the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of the Masonic fraternity.
Among the others on the list were: Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.; St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans; Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis in St. Louis, Missouri; Grace Cathedral in San Francisco; St. Patricks’ Cathedral and Trinity Church in New York City; Trinity Church in Boston; and Cathedral of St. Helena in Montana.
Our Gothic Revival Cathedral, owned by the Scottish Rite Valley of Indianapolis, was built between 1927 and 1929 on the eve of the Great Depression at a cost of $2.5 million (about $36 million today). It was designed by architect George F. Schreiber, and famously laid out in measurements of 33 or multiples of 33 feet. The Cathedral takes up an entire city block (330 feet long), and its 54-bell carillon tower stands over 200 feet tall.
I have been a member there since 2000, and I find something new every time I walk in. We have several extraordinarily knowledgable tour guides at the Cathedral, including my friend and Brother Carson Smith (left) who can give you the one-hour, the three-hour, the all-day, or even the two-day in-depth tour of the whole place. The stained glass windows alone can turn into an all-day study trip if you're not careful.
But be aware that the Cathedral is NOT open for tours on weekends, and only offers public tours Tuesday through Friday from 10AM-2PM. If those hours don't work for you, contact me and I can put you in touch with one of the Guides to see if a private, off-hour tour is possible. We are sort of at the mercy of the event planners in that respect.
Additionally, the Double Eagle Cafe is open to the public for lunch every Monday-Friday from 11AM - 2PM. It's quick, inexpensive, and traditional cafeteria-style. And it gives the perfect excuse to stop in and see the Cathedral if you've never been in it before.
The Cathedral is located at 600 North Meridian Street in Indianapolis, but don't be fooled - the main entrance is on the west side of the building (parking lot side), NOT the big doors on Meridian.
(While downtown, walk across North Street and stop in at the Indianapolis Masonic Temple on Illinois Street. Compared to the gorgeous, blonde bombshell of the Cathedral, the Temple is sort of her frumpy, dowdy, glasses-wearing sister, and gets overlooked by many visitors to Indianapolis. Don't skip it, because it is home to the Masonic Library and Museum of Indiana on the 5th floor, our Grand Lodge offices, numerous Masonic lodges and related bodies, our youth groups, the office of the Masonic Society, and more. On the ground floor is Indiana Freemasons' Hall, the unused 700+ seat auditorium where our annual communication was held for 50 years until the Scottish Rite was air conditioned in the 1960s.)