State: New Hampshire
Date: June 20th, 2016
There are certain places in the world that people need to see. The Cathedral of the Pines is one of those places.
When I found out about it during the course of my research for this trip, it went to the top of my list for New Hampshire. I arrived at the Cathedral of Pines tired after nearly 20 miles of various inclines and hills. The excitement of getting to it pushed me farther than I should have gone, which is why I collapsed in front of the sign and had to rest for half an hour before I went in.
I found out it was nearly closing time (Open 10-5pm daily, May through October), so I went in and snapped a few pictures, but decided to come back the next day to further explore and take in the history.
I did not come back the next day. I had to rest because my legs were revolting against me for pushing them so hard the day before. So I took a day to rest.
The following day while cooking breakfast, a lone fawn walked about 15 yards from my campsite and then disappeared into the brush. A few moments later, a red fox came trotting by about 10 yards from my campsite, no doubt curious about me and what I was cooking (ramen with tunafish).
Feeling rested and now able to enjoy the site I’d been looking forward too, I headed back to the Cathedral of Pines, which was not far (I was literally across the road in the woods).
The first thing that struck me was the tower.
The tower is dedicated to women, both civilian and military. Dedicated in 1967, it was the first memorial to recognize the patriotic American women who have served the nation. There are also four plaques on each side of the tower to represent the different contributions women have made to this nation. They were designed by Norman Rockwell and his son Peter Rockwell.
The plaques (which I have purposely omitted, so you’ll go see it for yourself) dedications are as follows:
Women of the Armed forces: West Side Plaque
Pioneer Women: South Facing Plaque
Clara Barton (founder of the Red Cross): North Facing Plaque
Sisters of Charity: East Facing Plaque
There is also a memorial statue tree at the base of the tower called the “Tree of Life” dedicated to all the American wartime nurses.
After I took in the tower, I went into the Hilltop House and met Sylvia. A volunteer at the Cathedral of Pines who has been volunteering there for 30 years. Sylvia told me a lot about the history of the Cathedral of pines, showed me a movie with even more, and gave me some pamphlets with more information about the Cathedral of Pines, so I could be accurate in my writing. Sylvia told me she understood why I wanted to learn as much as I could and have the right information because her son is also a writer and has written for the New Yorker.
I then thanked and left Sylvia to explore the grounds. Of course, my first stop was the place the Cathedral of Pines is most famous for and what I was looking forward to the most.
The Altar of the Nation is a memorial to all the men and women who have lost their lives in wartime. There are stones from every state and every president since Truman. Governors and Commanding officers have also added stones from battlegrounds over time as well.
The cross is New Hampshire granite and on the top of the altar there are three Verde Antique marble slabs from a quarry in Cardiff, Maryland through which runs the Mason Dixon line. The three slabs represent the North, South, and Union. They are held together by cement mixed with soil from Mt. Zion in Jerusalem.
There is also a baptismal font, pulpit, and a lectern made up of stones dedicated to the fallen.
The Lectern (pictured above) top-stone was found by Dr. Douglas Sloane. It reminded him of an open bible and so he brought it home with him. It was one of the pieces that inspired what the Cathedral of the Pines has become today: a place to honor the fallen and worship our living God.
Dr. Sloane and his wife, along with help from friends, family, churches, and organizations, built the Altar of the Nation originally as a memorial to the WWII dead of New Hampshire. It was a way for them to honor and remember their son Sanderson (Sandy) who lost his life in the war. However, a year after its dedication, it was rededicated as a memorial to all war dead.
Then in 1957, ten years after the re-dedication, both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives voted unanimously for the Altar of the Nation to become a National Memorial for all American War Dead.
After I took in the Altar of the Nation and walked along the garden path, I came to a hiking trail that lead to Grassy pond.
I hiked down a nice path, got briefly turned around despite the trail maps they have along the way, until I finally made it to the Grassy Pond. Beautiful doesn’t describe it, but hopefully the picture will help you understand.
Once I finished taking pictures, both mental and with a camera, I headed back up to the Hilltop House.
I learned from the video that Sylvia had me watch that the walls also contained stones and artifacts that people had given over the years to memorialize a loved one lost in war, a dedication to all who lost their lives in a certain battle, or just a historical piece that they wanted the Cathedral of Pines to have.
Some of the stones and items in the walls include: a piece of the Blarney stone, a piece of the rock of Gibraltar, a stone from Auschwitz, a purple heart, and many more historical artifacts.
There is much more to the story, but if you want to hear it you’ll have to go see it for yourself.
Cathedral of the Pines
10 Hale Hill Road
Rindge, NH 03461
Special Note: The Cathedral of the Pines is a nonprofit organization and charges no fees for visiting the site. They receive no government support and rely on private donations. So if you want to honor the memory of the troops that lost their lives, donate to the Cathedral of the Pines to help keep the place that history built open for all to see.
Forever your friend,