Built as a memorial to a fallen soldier, the chapel has hosted services from 75 different faiths.
Situated on top of a hill overlooking the Grand Monadnock mountain near Rindge, New Hampshire, the open-air Cathedral of the Pines is one of the most spectacular religious sites in the US.
Built in 1945 by the Sloane family in memory of their second-born son Sandy, who died while fighting in the United States Air Force in 1944, the Cathedral of the Pines is now a multi-faith complex dedicated to the memory of all those, military or civilian, who died at war.
As Douglas Sloane recounts, in 1935 the Sloanes were taking a walk around Cramers Point, New York, where they had a summer home, when they stumbled upon a book-shaped stone—now topping the lectern in the Cathedral—and saved it, thinking they might one day build an outdoor chapel. When their summer home was sold, they searched several possible areas and were drawn to farmland outside Rindge, New Hampshire. They decided they were going to buy the property and divide it into four lots for their four sons. The lot destined for Sandy was severely damaged by a strong hurricane in 1938. When the Sloanes got up the hill to check the damage, they found that the wind had wiped out all of the large trees—only smaller plants were left intact—opening up a spectacular view of of Bullett Pond and Grassy Pond, Mt. Monadnock and the whole Monadnock Divide. The family referred to it as “the most beautiful view God ever put together.”
In 1944, when the sad news about Sandy’s death reached the family, they decided to place a memorial in the clearing that would have been his home. Touched by the holiness of the space, the family decided to build a cathedral dedicated to war victims and as a monument to peace and understanding. The open-air cathedral is built mostly of natural materials like granite and wood. The lectern, pulpit and stoup are made entirely of stone.
The most spectacular view of Monadnock can be observed by the altar which is dedicated to the memory of Americans who died at war and features stones from every state in the U.S. and from a few war zones, including the German city over which Sandy Sloane’s plane was shot down. A path between the trees leads to a cemetery and additional open air chapels, a garden and standing stones carved with inscriptions from different holy texts.
The first service celebrated at the Cathedral of the Pines was held on July 4, 1946, under the auspices of he New Hampshire Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. In the first five years of its operation the site received a record of 425,000 visitors from every State of the Union and from abroad.
It is estimated that services of 75 different religious faiths have been celebrated at the Cathedral to date—including Catholic, Jewish and Protestant ceremonies—thus fulfilling the Sloanes’ dream of a “cathedral without borders.”