Welcome to the Cathedral of All Souls. We hope that this information about our historic buildings will make your visit more interesting, and we invite you to join us at our services of worship.
On November 6, 1896, All Souls Episcopal Church was consecrated. Its name and geography have formed and shaped its life for over 100 years. The church is situated in the hub of a fan shaped group of streets that is Biltmore Village. Built by George Vanderbilt as the parish church for the village adjacent to the Biltmore House, it was seen by Vanderbilt as the connecting piece for the daily life of all persons, all souls, in the region.
This mission, connecting faith and life in the region, is seen throughout
the life of All Souls. In its early days it sponsored a school for mountain children and in later decades was the home for Asheville’s first school designed for children with special needs. In its early days it supported the establishment of a nearby hospital, and in recent years has established a therapeutic counseling center for non-insured and under-insured persons. Education, hunger, literacy, housing, health care, economic opportunity are among the issues that have been and are engaged by the people of All Souls to address the well being of all persons in Western North Carolina and beyond.
This work has been immersed in a deeply rich tradition of worship and the sacred. Attention to music, artistic expression of many types, preaching and a profound appreciation of mystery has shaped our worship life for generations. Evensongs, patronal day requiems, contemplative prayer groups, spiritual retreats, artistic festivals and performances complement the weekly Eucharistic offerings of All Souls and are a source for our connection to God, each other, ourselves and the world about us.
On January 1, 1995, All Souls became the first Cathedral for The Diocese of Western North Carolina. A Cathedral is a parish in which the Bishop, the chief pastor and leader of a diocese, has their seat, ‘cathedra’ in Latin. As a Cathedral, All Souls serves as a gathering place for the diocese, a house of prayer for all persons and a symbol for God’s desire to gather all persons around one table.
The interplay of our engagement with the world about us and gathering for worship has deepened the experience of both for the generations of people connected to All Souls.
Our future will be a continuation of our past: being a place for spiritual searching and gathering, a place for refuge and inspiration, a place of imagination and proclamation, a place for all souls.
All Souls Church was conceived as a congregation and a building by George Vanderbilt, developer of the Biltmore Estate and Biltmore Village, to be the central focus of the village. The Church and Parish Hall, designed by Richard Morris Hunt, were completed in 1896 and consecrated on November 8th of that year. Mr. Hunt was the architect of the Biltmore House. Mr. Vanderbilt gave possession of the church buildings to the Wardens and Vestry October 26, 1896. He served as Senior Warden for eighteen years until his death in 1914.
The style of the main church building is from the Norman period of transition from Romanesque to Gothic. The basic plan is cruciform (cross shaped), using proportions of the Greek cross, which features a short nave or main body of the room. The design is said to be inspired by abbey churches in Northern England, though the apse, or semi-circular chancel, is characteristic of churches in Southern France.
Originally, all the windows were mouth blown, hand leaded translucent glass such as those seen today in the Parish Hall. The windows in the chancel and nave were replaced by memorial windows of stained opalescent glass; all were designed and made by David Maitland Armstrong and his daughter, Helen, contemporaries of Tiffany. The six memorial windows in the transepts depict scenes from the Bible; they and the windows in the chancel and those facing the front porch were given in the late 1890's and the early 1900's. The tower windows are memorials and dedications that have been given over the years, the last three being installed in 1996, All Souls Centennial.
The pulpit canopy, the first addition to the design, was added in 1947. A second altar was constructed at the chancel steps and the chancel was rearranged in 1990.
The chancel organ, installed in 1971 by the Casavant Organ Company of Canada, is composed of three manual divisions and pedal. The older antiphonal organ over the front door contains a composite of older pipe work including a four-foot flute rank saved from the original 1896 Geo. S. Hutchings Organ. The chancel and antiphonal organs together comprise fifty five ranks with almost three thousand pipes in six divisions--all controlled from the recently restored and updated three manual console located in the chancel.
The pulpit, lectern, high altar, bishop's chair, chancel furniture, pews, baptismal font in the northwest room, and the kneeling cushions are all original. Many cushions have needlepoint covers designed and stitched by parishioners and friends as memorials and thanksgivings done from the late 1960's to the present. Festival banners also were designed and executed by parishioners.
The octagonal building behind the apse is connected to the chancel by an ambulatory or walkway. Although not part of the original design, it was added soon after the building was consecrated. It houses robing rooms for the choir.
Designed and constructed simultaneously with the Church, the Parish Hall (Zabriskie Hall) was renovated in 1983. It is used for many parish functions and community organization meetings.
In 1953 the All Saints Memorial Church School, composed of the Beadle and Hope Cloisters, Owen Library, Straus Kindergarten Building and the Northup Room, joined the Church and Parish Hall. The school encloses Claiborn Garth (garden). The design consultant for these additions was Philip Hubert Frohman, architect of the Washington Cathedral.
Marianne Zabriskie, the late wife of the first dean of the cathedral, Cornelius A. Zabriskie, designed the cross atop the church tower. It was installed in 1961, soaring ten feet above the red tiles. It consists of two Celtic crosses, the circles representing the eternal nature of God and the interdependence of all the world through Christ.
In 1977, the first bell was installed at All Souls. In 1998, a set of Westminster Peal Bells was installed alongside the original bell. These were produced by The van Bergen Company of Charleston, South Carolina. The ringing of the bells in various celebrations and at the hour and half-hour contributes to the community presence of All Souls in Biltmore Village.