The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is a must-see in Savannah, GA, and it only takes one quick glance to understand why. Its architecture is incredibly beautiful!

Even though most locals call it “The Cathedral” or “Cathedral St. John,” the church officially became known as the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist in 2020. (More on that below!)

If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about it, I’ll go through everything you need to know in this handy guide.

In case you’re curious, my personal favorite time to visit the cathedral is for Christmas in Savannah. That’s when it’s decorated with an elaborate nativity scene and thousands of live poinsettias.

If you can’t make it then, no worries; the Savannah cathedral is so impressive that it looks spectacular year-round. Case in point…

Interior shot of the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist with the baptismal font front and center and the alter visible in the background
Pretty stunning, isn’t it? From the baptismal font to the altar to the stained glass, every inch is a work of art. | ©GlennNagel

Note: This guide contains affiliate links to my trusted travel partners.

Need to Know Info for Cathedral St. John

Location: Savannah Historic District
Address: 222 E Harris St, Savannah, GA 31401
Parking: Paid street parking is available in the area
Hours: Monday through Saturday: 9:30 a.m – 11:30 a.m and 12:45 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. and Sunday: 1 p.m – 4:30 p.m. | Doors close at 5 p.m. daily (on the dot)
Restrooms: Public restrooms are not available
Cost: $3 donation suggested

As long as you don’t have any mobility issues, you can walk to the cathedral pretty easily from any point in the Historic District or the Victorian District.

Its twin spires are so tall that you can SEE it from many points in both districts, as well!

Facade of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on a clear and sunny day
The twin spires of the Cathedral of St. John silhouetted against a dark blue sky
The spires are so tall they can be seen from many points in Savannah’s Historic District. | ©ErinClarkson

If you’re mobility-impaired or are staying in the Starland District, it might be easier to hop on the free DOT shuttle and then exit at the stop closest to Lafayette Square.

There’s always the option to take a guided (paid) trolley tour that stops at the cathedral, too.

Both of the hop-on/hop-off trolleys have a stop at the cathedral, so it doesn’t matter if you choose the white hop-on/hop-off trolley or the orange one.

If you opt for the white trolley, you can follow this handy Old Savannah trolley tour itinerary I created. Once you’re inside the cathedral, there are volunteer docents to answer your questions.

Related Reading: Savannah Trolley Tour Reviews: Which One is Best?

Exterior shot of the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist from a low angle with an iron cross from a fence prominent in the foreground
Don’t miss the details! The iron fence surrounding the cathedral even has crosses incorporated into the design. | ©ErinClarkson

PLEASE NOTE: This is an active cathedral. Please be respectful of anyone who is visiting the church to pray, and be cognizant of how your actions might affect others inside the building.

What to See Inside the Savannah Cathedral

Once you step inside the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with its beauty.

I’ve visited many times, and I’m still in awe each time I go!

To help you out, here a few things you won’t want to miss (I’ll go in order beginning when you enter the nave and turn to the right)…

That Cavernous Ceiling

You shouldn’t have any problem noticing the tall ceilings as soon as you walk in, since your eye is immediately drawn to their height. At the tallest points, they reach 96 feet high!

A wide angle shot of the interior of the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist. It appears cavernous, with high ceilings, endless rows of pews, and numerous stained glass windows that are each approximately 20 feet tall
A picture is worth a thousand words, right? The interior is definitely worth checking out. | ©GlennNagel

There are murals along each side of the ceiling, too. If you look closely, you’ll see the Procession of the Saints marching along on the ceiling above the center aisle.

Interior shot of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist showing row after row of pews, a blue ceiling hand painted with gold emblems, and faux-painted marble columns
Interior shot of the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist with an alter carved from white marble displayed against a backdrop painted pale blue and an arched ceiling painted with turquoise paint

The north and south-facing portions of the ceiling are each painted in a deep peacock-blue color with tiny, hand-painted gold emblems.

The Baptismal Font

You also can’t miss the striking baptismal font, since it sits directly in the aisle as soon as you walk through the doorway.

It’s octagon-shaped and weighs a whopping 8,000 pounds.

The tile inside the font is shaped like a Celtic knot in a nod to Savannah’s Irish heritage.

Octagonal-shaped baptismal font inside the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist. It is carved out of 8000 pounds of Carrara marble
Look at all the intricate details carved into that massive chunk of Carrara marble! | ©ErinClarkson

The Stations of the Cross

There are a total of 14 Stations of the Cross in the cathedral. Each one is hand-carved out of linden wood and is very detailed.

The statues were carved in Bavaria, Germany by many different wood carvers.

However, to provide continuity between the many carvings, the face of Christ on every single station was carved by the same exact artist.

The stations depict the Passion of Christ, and each one appears in order. They go from condemnation by Pontius Pilate to crucifixion and death to burial.

The Stations of the Cross depicting the Passion of Christ line the walls of the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist in Savannah
The Stations of the Cross line the wall to the left in this photo. | ©ErinClarkson

The Crucifix

As you walk towards the pulpit area, the crucifix is located just in front of the south transept on the right-hand side of the cathedral.

An interior wall inside the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist with a crucifix scene in front of an arched entryway
The crucifix is located above the altar of Saint Anthony. | ©GlennNagel

It has been restored and sits atop the altar of Saint Anthony, with an oil painting of Mother Mary to the right of it.

The Virgin Mother Mary Altar

This altar is situated between the crucifix and main altar, and the walls are painted a pale robin’s egg blue.

The Original Altar

There’s a massive marble structure beneath the curved stained glass windows of the cathedral. It used to serve as the original altar, but these days it’s a backdrop.

In case you weren’t aware (I certainly wasn’t, until I started doing research for this post), priests used to turn their backs to parishioners and face the altar while preaching to it in Latin.

I can’t imagine many things more boring than that.

At some point in the 1960s, a wise pope decided that priests should face parishioners instead of the wall, and thus the original altar switched to backdrop status.

The new setup makes it much harder to fall asleep during service without a priest taking notice!

The massive original altar for the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the baptists serves as a backdrop with a smaller, less intricate altar in the foreground
You can see the original altar in the background and the smaller, modern-day altar in the foreground. | ©ErinClarkson

The Modern-Day Altar

The modern-day altar is smaller and closer to the pews so priests can better communicate with parishioners.

Even though it looks more humble than the original altar, it’s still a massive chunk of Carrara marble. It clocks in at 9,000 pounds!

Blessed Sacrament Altar and Tabernacle

This is the most sacred area of the cathedral, because this is where the Eucharist resides once communion ends.

Whenever parishioners partake in communion, any of the leftover host is placed inside the tabernacle (aka: behind the small brass door) where it is reserved for the next service.

Anytime you visit a Catholic church and want to know where the tabernacle is located, just look for the red candle. Whenever that candle is lit, it means Christ is present in the tabernacle.

The red candle stays lit for 362 days of the year.

To represent the days prior to Christ’s resurrection, the candle is unlit for three days during Holy Week. The door to the tabernacle is also left open during those three days.

The Blessed Sacrament Altar at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint John the Baptist in Savannah, Georgia. A red candle hangs from a ceiling that is painted blue with gold star emblems
I need to get a better photo, but you can see the red candle hanging from the ceiling and the small brass door to the tabernacle in the background. | ©ErinClarkson

Holy Oils Ambry

The Holy Oils Ambry is located in the north transept. It has three different vessels that hold the oils used in baptisms, confirmations, and last rites.

Rows of red votives inside the Savannah cathedral. Ten of them are lit in remembrance of loved ones
There are votives in front of the Ambry where you can light candles in remembrance of loved ones. | ©ErinClarkson


The confessional is located in the north-facing transept and is made of wood and glass. The glass features etchings that tell the story of the Prodigal Son.

Pipe Organ

As you’re headed out of the cathedral, don’t forget to look up again!

The pipe organ is located in a loft above the nave, and it something you don’t want to miss. It’s made from more than 2,300 pipes.

The surrounding case is solid oak trimmed in black walnut, and it’s quite a work of art!

B&W photo of the pipe organ in the choir loft of the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist
The pipe organ is located in the choir loft. | ©ErinClarkson

Stained Glass

The stained glass pieces throughout the cathedral depict important events in Biblical history.

I haven’t mentioned it yet, but the majority of the cathedral burned in the late 1800s. Much of the original stained glass was lost at that time — only three pieces survived the blaze.

Although you can’t see it easily during a general walk-through of the cathedral, one of the surviving sections is located in the Blessed Virgin Chapel.

The Great Rose is the easiest piece of stained glass to spot from the exterior of the cathedral. However, it’s the easiest to miss once you’re inside. That’s because it’s located high above the choir loft.

It’s 20 feet in diameter and features St. Cecilia, the patroness of music, in the center. That window alone is insured for more than 3 million dollars!

(Just imagine how much insurance costs for the entire building! Yikes.)

Close-up exterior shot of the Great Rose stained glass window at the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist in Savannah
This Great Rose Window is worth more than most houses in Savannah! | ©WollwerthImagery

“Marble” Columns

The marble columns throughout the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist are actually faux!

They’re painted to look like real marble, but they’re really made of steel. That’s because real marble would crush under the weight of the building.

The Donation Box

There’s a donation box posted near the door to the narthex with signage suggesting a $3 donation to help with the upkeep of the cathedral.

Here’s the thing, though…

Should you Donate to the Cathedral?

Catholic dioceses have paid out more than 3 billion dollars in sexual abuse settlement funds in the United States in recent decades [source].

The U.S. Catholic Church has also spent more than 10 million dollars lobbying against bills that make it easier for victims to sue for alleged abuse [source].

If you like the building and want to donate, I suggest donating directly to the Cathedral Basilica Heritage Endowment Fund. Those funds are earmarked specifically for the preservation of the building and won’t (or at least shouldn’t) go towards any political agendas.

Black wrought-iron crosses atop a metal fence at Savannah's cathedral at night, illuminated by a dim streetlamp in the distance
Creative angle of the facade of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist with a dimly-lit lantern in the foreground
The cathedral is pretty, but the Catholic church has a dark side. Do your research before donating! | ©ErinClarkson

Why the Savannah Cathedral was Designated a Basilica

St. John was designated a Minor Basilica in 2020 by His Holiness Pope Francis. This is pretty significant, since there are only 18 cathedrals in the United States with the Basilica designation.

Minor Basilicas receive the designation due to their historical importance, architectural value, and their significance as a place of worship.

Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

The Savannah cathedral holds mass a couple times each day, and the public is welcome to attend.

Hours for Mass

  • Sunday (3x): 8:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., and 11:30 a.m.
  • Monday – Friday (2x daily): 7:30 a.m. and 12:00 noon
  • Saturday (2x): 12:00 noon and 5:30 p.m.

Christmas and Easter services are always crowded, and sometimes they’re standing room only.

Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist Summary

Overall, the cathedral is fascinating and one of the prettier churches you can tour in Savannah.

Two additional places of worship I highly suggest checking out are First African Baptist Church and Congregation Mickve Israel. The latter has the oldest Torah in the United States!

If you’re overwhelmed with your trip planning, my Savannah First-Timer’s Guide might help. It has all of my top Savannah tips neatly packaged into one handy downloadable ebook.

If you have any questions about the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist, please let me know in the comments below!