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Stanford Memorial Church, Palo Alto

4.9
#9 of 31 in Things to do in Palo Alto
Church · Hidden Gem · Tourist Spot
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Stanford Memorial Church (also referred to informally as MemChu) is located on the Main Quad at the center of the Stanford University campus in Stanford, California, United States. It was built during the American Renaissance by Jane Stanford as a memorial to her husband Leland. Designed by architect Charles A. Coolidge, a student of Henry Hobson Richardson, the church has been called "the University's architectural crown jewel".
Designs for the church were submitted to Jane Stanford and the university trustees in 1898, and it was dedicated in 1903. The building is Romanesque in form and Byzantine in its details, inspired by churches in the region of Venice, especially, Ravenna. Its stained glass windows and extensive mosaics are based on religious paintings the Stanfords admired in Europe. The church has five pipe organs, which allow musicians to produce many styles of organ music. Stanford Memorial Church has withstood two major earthquakes, in 1906 and 1989, and was extensively renovated after each.

Stanford Memorial Church was the earliest and has been "among the most prominent" non-denominational churches on the West Coast of the United States. Since its dedication in 1903, the church's goal has been to serve the spiritual needs of the university in a non-sectarian way. The church's first chaplain, David Charles Gardner, began a tradition of leadership which has guided the development of Stanford University's spiritual, ethical, and academic relation to religion. The church's chaplains were instrumental in the founding of Stanford's religious studies department, moving Stanford from a "secular university" at the middle of the century to "the renaissance of faith and learning at Stanford" in the late 1960s, when the study of religion at the university focused on social and ethical issues like race and the Vietnam War.
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Stanford Memorial Church reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 5.0
69 reviews
Google
4.8
TripAdvisor
  • Beautiful mosaics on the outside and inside. Extraordinary organ music when someone is practicing and/or during a service or concert. The church had been destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and badly... 
    Beautiful mosaics on the outside and inside. Extraordinary organ music when someone is practicing and/or during a service or concert. The church had been destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and badly...  more »
  • Memorial church serves its campus community in a variety of worship settings, but it also has a lot of free offerings for the wider community in its worship offerings. Although most of the music is... 
    Memorial church serves its campus community in a variety of worship settings, but it also has a lot of free offerings for the wider community in its worship offerings. Although most of the music is...  more »
Google
  • An absolutely stunning masterpiece of a church! Feels like you're in Rome! The organ is magnificent, lots of space to seat many people constantly on two levels, great acoustics and an all inclusive but semi-traditional service style (at least for Christmas). I loved it and hope to make returning an annual tradition when visiting the area!
  • Gorgeous church, great paintings and architecture despite the numerous earthquake damages over the years. Attended a solemn service here as well which was nice. Organ sound is majestic. Highly recommended if you are visiting Stanford University of the Bay area. Especially love how the building shines at the sun!

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