These small-group tours focus on thematic topics or specific areas of the Cathedral, including voices of history, sacred art and architectural topics.
Go in-depth on Cathedral art and architecture with a themed tour, led by a knowledgable docent. These small-group tours focus on thematic topics or specific areas of the Cathedral, including voices of history, sacred art and architectural topics.
If you are a returning visitor, or if you want to know more about this national landmark, our themed tours will open your mind and touch your heart.
Please note: Thematic Tours are scheduled according to docent availability; not all options may be available at a given time. See below for more details on tours, or check upcoming availability now.
Advance reservations are suggested as space is limited. Thematic Tours are best suited for ages 10+.
Thematic Tour Details
Thematic Tour: African American Voices
Celebrate notable African Americans who have made significant contributions in theology, human rights, social justice, civil rights, education, and the welfare of other human beings as depicted in the sculptures, stained glass windows, and needlepoint throughout the Cathedral. See where Martin Luther King, Jr., Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and former President Barack Obama became part of Cathedral history.
Thematic Tour: Ironwork
Explore the magic of wrought iron in the Cathedral—from fantastic creatures to stunning flowers, all unique and made by skilled hands. Learn about the artisan blacksmiths and how they created such stunning work. This experience includes a walking tour of both the main level and the lower level to see a variety of wrought iron created over the last near-hundred years.
Thematic Tour: Architecture
What are the basic elements shared by any Gothic building? Why is Gothic so well suited to religious structures? Through the Cathedral’s soaring walls and exquisite carvings, explore the Gothic style and its unique characteristics, purposes, and building methods.
Thematic Tour: Humor & Whimsy
Amid the majesty and grandeur of gothic architecture are examples of amusing architectural details, puns, lighthearted carvings, and stained-glass cartoons. Discover a doctor in an old-time buggy racing after a stork, a story in stone about a Nantucket sleigh ride, a wrought iron gate that unexpectedly wiggles, a dentist drilling a cavity in the tusk of his walrus patient, and so much more! Please note, this tour spends time both outside and inside.
Thematic Tour: Stained Glass
In this introduction to the stained-glass windows, learn about the tales they tell, from God’s creation of the universe to stories from American history to the Last Judgment. Witness the stylistic evolution of Cathedral windows from 1911 to the 2000s and learn about the creation process, which combines artistry and technical skill. Discover how to “read” a window, decoding symbols that add meaning and depth to each lancet.
Thematic Tour: Symbolism of God & Humankind
Discover symbolism in the Cathedral’s stone, stained glass, and fabric art which, like those crafted by medieval cathedral artisans, illustrate the “…Divine purpose which animates human endeavor…” Learn to read the art’s unfolding stories by decoding the symbols’ meanings within artistic elements of the Cathedral.