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UNIVERSITY OF PITT
CATHEDRAL OF LEARNING
The Cathedral of Learning, a Pittsburgh landmark listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is the centerpiece of
the University of Pittsburgh's main campus in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States.
Standing at 535 feet, the 42-story Late Gothic Revival Cathedral is the tallest educational building in the Western
hemisphere and the second tallest university building in the world. It is also the second tallest gothic-styled building in
the world. The Cathedral of Learning was commissioned in 1921 and ground was broken in 1926. The first class was held
in the building in 1931 and its exterior finished in October 1934, prior to its formal dedication in June 1937.
In 1921, John Gabbert Bowman became the tenth chancellor of the university. At that time, the school consisted of a series of
buildings constructed along Henry Hornbostel's plan for the campus and included "temporary" wooden structures built
during World War I. He then began to envision a "tall building", that would be later termed the Cathedral of Learning, to
provide a dramatic symbol of education for the city and alleviate overcrowding by adding much needed space in order to meet
present and future needs of the university.
His reasoning is summarized in this quote:
"The building was to be more than a schoolhouse; it was to be a symbol of the life that Pittsburgh through the years had
wanted to live. It was to make visible something of the spirit that was in the hearts of pioneers as, long ago, they sat in their
log cabins and thought by candlelight of the great city that would sometime spread out beyond their three rivers and that
even they were starting to build."
Colloquially referred to as "Cathy" by Pitt students, the Cathedral of Learning is a steel frame structure overlaid with Indiana
limestone and contains more than 2,000 rooms and windows. It functions as a primary classroom and administrative center of
the university, and is home to the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and many of its departments, as well as the University
Honors College. It served as home of the university's College of General Studies until its relocation to Posvar Hall in 2014. It
houses many specialty spaces, including a studio theater, food court, study lounges, offices, computer and language labs, 30
Nationality Rooms, and a 1⁄2-acre, 4-story-high, vaulted, gothic study and event hall. The building contains noted examples of
stained glass, stone, wood, and iron work and is often used by the university in photographs, postcards, and other
advertisements.