Salt Lake Tabernacle 1864

  • Groundbreaking 1964
  • Dedicated 1867
  • Architects: Henry Grow, Truman O. Angell (1870 gallery addition).

The Salt Lake Tabernacle combines two traditional architectural features in an utterly unique fashion: a dome and a rectangular meetinghouse. Historically, these two elements would be combined by building a central circular dome buttressed and extended with normal rectangular architecture, for example the Roman Pantheon or St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Brigham Young’s idea was to elongate the dome to accommodate the entire length of a rectangular meetinghouse, forming a large oval. It was a simple but audacious concept and required the skillful engineering Henry Grow to bring it about. The result was a masterpiece of innovation that looks nothing like a normal domed church and nothing like a standard rectangular meetinghouse either.

Domed architecture is symbolic of the vault of heaven and is sometimes decorated with stars, or a picture of Christ looking down on His creation. The Salt Lake Tabernacle also has a vast, sky-like quality. However, because the dome has been elongated, the eye is continuously led toward the “show front,” with its magnificent organ and rows of seating for the priesthood leadership.

Truman O. Angell’s 1970 gallery addition added further dimensionality to the structure. As a teenager I remember sitting at the very top of this gallery for General Conference and looking down at the priesthood leadership. It was a heavenly experience. It was as if I had joined the angels perched up beside the domed vault, observing the proceedings below. It felt simultaneously expansive yet enclosed, vast yet intimate.

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