A glorious Savannah attraction to behold, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is an architectural masterpiece and the seat of the diocese of Savannah. In the French-Gothic style, pointed arches and magnificent details make a breathtaking backdrop to the gorgeous Savannah skyline. It was founded in 1700 by the first French Colonists and although the original early structures were destroyed by fire, the current cathedral dates back to 1874.
Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the cathedral, enjoying the amazing Twin Spires and picturesque exterior as well as the Italian marble, Austrian stained glass and opulent Persian rugs of the interior. On any day of the year, a stop at the Cathedral of St. John is a fantastic experience.
Ultimate Guide to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
With well over a century of history, architecture, faith, and tradition in Savannah, the iconic building housing The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist has its roots here. Steeped in Catholic tradition and Georgia charm, the cathedral is often named to one of the top ten historic sites visited in the United States each year. Open to the community of Savannah and visitors from afar, the Cathedral has been a beacon in the skyline of Savannah for decades.
The hard work, dedication, perseverance and commitment of countless individuals have kept the traditions and community of The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist for more than a century. The cathedral has many roots and owes its existence to those from many diverse backgrounds. In the 18th century, French Catholic émigrés fled Haiti. Some fled from the French Revolution while others had their own reasons for heading onward. With a welcoming arm to immigrants from all walks of life, more than ten years after the first parish of Savannah was founded, the church of Saint John the Baptist came to life.
After nearly a decade of growing a community, the space in which the church was housed needed to expand. Parishioners were growing in leaps and bounds and the community yearned for a larger property for which to share their message. It took almost three decades and a shift in Diocese and Bishops, but in April of 1839, while including almost a third of the entire Catholic population of the state of Georgia, the new Church of Saint John the Baptist took flight.
It was nearly four decades later, under a new Diocese and in a new location that the new Cathedral came to be. It stood for twenty years before being nearly decimated by fire in 1898. It took two critical years to rebuild, but the new Cathedral was dedicated in October of 1900. There were still more renovations and shifts to come, but by November of 2000, there was a 100th anniversary of the rededication of the Cathedral and it still stands in its historical glory today welcoming countless visitors and parishioners annually.
The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is welcoming to all. Open for self-guided tours Monday – Saturday from 9:00 am – 11:45 am and again from 12:45 pm – 5:00 pm, visitors are welcome to check out the architecture, take in the surroundings or worship beside locals. For those taking self-guided tours, a small donation of $2 is suggested. Docent-led tours are also available at the Cathedral but should be organized in advance (check the website for details). There are no tours (self-guided or otherwise) during Mass or any religious event. The church is closed for funerals, weddings and on most holy days. It is advised to check the calendar on their website prior to visiting.
Aside from its significant architecture, this welcoming cathedral envelops all who enter. The gorgeous stained glass windows allow in abundant light and sunshine and the murals on the walls do much more than tell a story. The stunning architecture inside and out of the majestic space is worth the stop on your tour of Savannah. Attend services, light a candle, take a guided tour and learn about the traditions and faith of the Catholic religion. Spend time taking in the colors, the sounds of the high ceilings, and the peaceful serenity captured here. Watch as the light dances across the pews throughout the day.
Savannah’s joy is in its charm and its people. Learn as you meander the lanes, streets, and districts history and stories every which way you look. Travel the historic district’s squares to find Savannah’s secrets. Take a jog along the riverfront. Consider heading to the tree-lined Bonaventure Cemetery for a look into the city and its past. Venture out to City Market for treats and trinkets. Forsyth Park is made up of 30 acres of nature in the center of downtown Savannah. If you’re interested in history, head to the Fort Pulaski National Monument to see the spot where General Robert E. Lee was first assigned his military duties. Interested in museums? Check out the Mercer Williams House. And for those sand lovers in your party, head directly to the shores of Tybee Island (only a half hour east of downtown) for a bit of relaxation after you tour around the city.