Old Friends and New Places: Part 2

Continuing my journey through Pittsburgh, I landed at the Cathedral of Learning. You’re thinking, a church of learning? What the hell is that? It is a historic landmark for Pittsburgh and one hell of a sight.

For those who have never heard, seen, or imagined let me describe the history to you. Well, actually Wikipedia is going to tell you:

“The Cathedral of Learning, a Pittsburgh landmark listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is the centerpiece of the University of Pittsburgh’s main campus in theOakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. Standing at 535 feet (>163 m), the 42-story Late Gothic Revival Cathedral is the tallest educational building in the Western hemisphere and the second tallest university building (fourth tallest educationally-purposed building) in the world…The Cathedral is a steel frame structure overlaid with Indiana limestone and contains more than 2,000 rooms and windows. The building is often used by the University in photographs, postcards, and other advertisements” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathedral_of_Learning).

Just inside the doors of the first floor Commons

So, now that you know a little bit more about this building let me tell you about my experience in it. Just walking up to the building is magnificent in itself. If you’re like me and aren’t used to huge buildings you forget that there are dozens of stories above. I forgot to look up while walking in and only until I left did I realize how truly astounding the Cathedral was.

In the first three floors, it is called the Commons Room, which is typically used for classrooms and housing the internationally acclaimed Nationality Rooms. The tall ceilings and Gothic furniture take you into a different time. As my friend so humorously put, “It’s like if you stepped into Hogwarts, I can’t get any work done because I just spend the entire time looking around.”

Aerial view of first floor Commons

But what are these Nationality Rooms. Well, upon visiting this Cathedral, there are several rooms, which are created to represent different nationalities. These 27 rooms display accurate architecture and decorations from African heritage to Yugoslavia. The rooms are beautiful that some are off limits to enter. You can only peek inside when the room is unlocked.


The fun doesn’t stop there. High back Gothic chairs and ornate benches scatter the room as Pittsburgh’s college students and the public gather to study in this astounding piece of history. There are huge stone fireplaces, heavy, decorated doors, and even stone staircases that make you think you’re in a castle.

A set of stairs. There's my wonderful high school friend I was visiting!

All in all, the experience was amazing. I wish I could have spent hours in this huge building, which also houses: a ball room, auditorium, the Dept. of Humanities, the Dept. of Philosophy (one of top 5 in the U.S.), Dept. of English, Religious Studies, and the School of Social Work. It also is home to many memorial rooms from benefactors, Studio Theater, and the University Honors College complete with full library. It is a treasure hidden in plain sight among the many tall buildings of Pittsburgh. A place of history, nationality, and inspiration for all who enter its revolving doors. I know I was affected by a short ten minute visit. So, if you’re in the area, please check it out!


Filed under Idea of the Day

2 responses to “Old Friends and New Places: Part 2

  1. The first pic looks like the great hall..

    • Yeah, it definitely does, which is why it reminds my friend of Hogwarts and she can’t get any work done in it. Although to be honest, I know I wouldn’t be able to study in it either! It would make for a great setting for a story, though.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s