The Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville is a parish church (located in Biltmore Village
near the entrance to Biltmore Estate) that became the Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina on January 1, 1995. All Souls, established in 1896 as a member of the Diocese of Western North Carolina, is part of the Episcopal Church in the United States, one Province within the worldwide Anglican Communion of seventy million souls.
A Cathedral is a parish church in which the Bishop, the chief pastor and leader of a diocese, has his seat or chair - "cathedra" in Latin. As a Cathedral, All Souls stands as the spiritual center of the diocese, a historic symbol of and witness to the Church's mission: to know Jesus Christ and to make Him known; to love God and to spread God's love into the world; to serve God by serving God's people.
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.