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The Big Picture at Today's Pitt

The Cathedral: Iconic Heart of the University


“The building was to be more than a schoolhouse; it was to be a symbol of the life that Pittsburgh through the years had wanted to live,” Chancellor John G. Bowman wrote of Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning.

The Gothic Revival skyscraper that Bowman commissioned in 1921 inspired local industries to donate steel, cement, elevators, glass, plumbing, and heating elements. Thousands of adults today still have the certificates they received as school children upon contributing 10 cents, which they had earned themselves, to “’buy a brick” for the Cathedral.

View a Cathedral photo gallery and see an interactive timeline of the building’s history.

In addition to its magnificent three-story Commons Room at ground level, the 42-story Cathedral houses classrooms (including the internationally renowned Nationality Classrooms), academic and administrative offices, libraries, computer labs, a theater, a print shop, and a food court.

In 2007, on the 70th anniversary of the Cathedral’s dedication, Pitt trustees approved a project to clean and restore the iconic building. Its interior upgraded and its limestone exterior scrubbed of industrial grime, the building today fulfills, more than ever, Chancellor Bowman’s original vision of it:

[The Cathedral] was to make visible something of the spirit that was in the hearts of pioneers as, long ago, they sat in their log cabins and thought by candlelight of the great city that would sometime spread out beyond their three rivers and that even they were starting to build.

A landmark listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Cathedral is the tallest educational building in the Western Hemisphere.