I Know a Green Cathedral

This beautiful song has haunted me for years and I finally was fortunate enough to find not only the lyrics but also a video of the song being played masterfully on piano (even though the performance was at a funeral). For a long time I have wanted to pair this song with some images of the secluded “green cathedrals” so familiar to me in my own neighborhood. Below are two scenes, photographed in early May of last year, that I felt would be very suitable here…

I know a green cathedral,
a shadowed forest shrine,
Where leaves in love join hands above
to arch your prayer and mine.

Within its cool depths sacred,
a priestly cedar sighs,
And the fir and pine lift arms divine
unto the pure blue skies.

In my dear green cathedral
there is a flowered seat
And choir loft in branched croft
where songs of bird hymn sweet.

And I like to dream at evening,
when the stars its arches light,
That my Lord and God treads its hallowed sod
in the cool, calm peace of night,
That my Lord and God treads its hallowed sod
in the cool, calm peace of night.




25 thoughts on “I Know a Green Cathedral

  1. Constance DePaoli October 10, 2014 / 6:14 pm

    THANK YOU! I learned the first verse in grade school, back in the late ’40s and never heard the rest of it until today. Thought it was all in minor key…

    • wildwanderingirl October 11, 2014 / 11:36 am

      You are most welcome! Most people probably learned this obscure song in school. I had never heard it at any time until maybe 10 yrs ago. I doubt anyone performs it vocally any more today. It seems to lend itself more to a duet or a trio arrangement. Anyway I hope this well-deserving pianist appreciates how many hits this video has been receiving lately!

    • Leona deeb May 11, 2015 / 2:28 am

      I sang this song in chorus the first year Lincoln Center opened. we won the Nationals with this song.Lenard Berstein conducted the orchestra. My school was ourLady of Perpetual Help in Bay Ridge Brooklyn. It changed my life and have been trying to find this song. I was a child no more than 9 or 12 at the time 55 years ago. My daughter is a graduate of music. A teacher and a classical performer. I have been telling through the years about this song. I just sent it to her. Her friend is a choral director at a Catholic school so my daughter was happy to hear I found the song! She will perform this solo and it will be performed in chorus next year at a Catholic school in florida. Thank you for posting this song. To find it now at 65 is wonderful.

      • wildwanderingirl May 19, 2015 / 1:23 am

        I do my fair share of solo singing myself, and I wish I could find sheet music for this song. I’ll have to look around!

      • Pat Adams August 4, 2015 / 8:59 pm

        I to have fond memories of this song. Sang it in elementry school at P.S.33 in Queens, NY.
        Each time I drive through a country road with tall trees touching the memory comes back….

  2. JimHewett April 7, 2015 / 10:28 pm

    The last verse has been lodged in my mind (haunting me) for years, so winsome. We sang this song in elementary school. The ’40s were certainly a different era. Thank you so much.

    • wildwanderingirl April 21, 2015 / 3:10 pm

      Jim, you are more than welcome!! Sorry I have not been around here lately, I am caregiver for my elderly mother which keeps my free time at a premium. I’ve moved mostly over to deviantart to just keep things simple and not have 2 websites to maintain. But yes, I cannot imagine singing this beautiful song in elementary school, I grew up in the ’60s which was still half a century ago and things were quite different even then. They still do choral work in school today but I’m sure old chestnuts like this one are being forgotten…

  3. Cheryl B. Dale May 24, 2015 / 2:40 pm

    Here’s a video of a church choir singing it. I remember the school chorus singing it when I was a child and I loved it.

    • wildwanderingirl June 13, 2015 / 10:43 pm

      Thank you, thank you so much for giving this link!! 😀 So lovely, exactly as I remember hearing this song sung many years ago on the radio. Quite a variety of other links to renditions of this piece out there, I didn’t know of any except the Winnie Peek funeral performance.

  4. Dan D. July 13, 2015 / 7:33 am

    Thanks for posting this! I haven’t heard it in 57 years but it has been in my head frequently. We sang it at 7th grade graduation going into high school. I love the woods and forests and trees. These are also beautiful pictures. Thank you!

  5. Nancy Bok September 20, 2015 / 4:23 pm

    I learned this song in a Methodist church choir in the early 1970’s. Our choir leader found it in an old hymnal. I have always loved it but had forgotten some of the words. I think our wording was a bit different but it’s still a favorite hymn. I’ve been remembering it all these years and I’m glad I’ve found it again.The Green Cathedral brings such beautiful pictures to my mind of the many forested places I’ve been to and seen through the years.The name Green Cathedral always goes through my mind when I see such places.

  6. Christopher Lawrence January 31, 2016 / 6:37 am

    Wow! Thanks so much for posting this. I have been singing this song to myself for over 50 years and could not recall all the lyrics. I came to the compute and typed in My Lord and God Tread its hallowed sod” and here it was.
    Such a hauntingly beautiful song. It struck me deeply while I was still in junior high school. That may have been the first time I was really connected spiritually to music. Thanks again!

  7. Eliza April 3, 2016 / 1:14 am

    I just want to join others in telling you how much I’ve loved this song all my life….would love to get the music to play!!!

    • wildwanderingirl June 16, 2016 / 12:52 am

      I’m sorry the videos aren’t playing for you! Every time I listen to these vids I get all teary eyed…such a glorious song…

  8. Karen April 7, 2016 / 5:02 am

    I am 73 and learned this song when I was in seventh grade in Detroit, MI. The piano teacher wheeled the piano into the classroom and taught us many beautiful religious and patriotic songs. I have never forgotten the beauty of this song and, also, “One God.” It was a very different time then. I’m grateful to see the lyrics because I could only remember some of them. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Anna M. Kells April 18, 2016 / 11:59 pm

    Is piano sheet music available?

    • wildwanderingirl June 16, 2016 / 12:54 am

      I don’t know but I hope it is. I’d love to perform this piece as a solo…I doubt anyone I know would care to sing it with me as duet or trio…

      {Edit} Yes, it is available in sheet music, just do a search for “I Know a Green Cathedral sheet music” and you’ll see several links.

  10. Barbara Brown July 9, 2016 / 4:27 pm

    I too learned this in elementary school. Our music teacher was the daughter of a minster and we learned many religious themed songs back then. I have since found it in an old school music book for 7th or 8th grade and have passed the words and music along to choir directors and organists whom I have met in my lifetime. The view from the choir room above out parish hall is of the tops of very tall old hemlocks and watching the birds flying in and out during the summer always brings “The Green Cathedral” to mind when we hold our summer services there instead of in our too hot to use Granite chapel during July and August. I have never looked for YouTube performances, and I don’t know what brought me to this today, but thank you. I also found this link for a source of the sheet music originally printed in 1927. (http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/the-green-cathedral-sheet-music/1799362)

  11. Janet ID Bertsch Alcozer September 16, 2016 / 4:26 am

    When I was 15 yrs old my music teacher at school taught it to me and I have always loved it! Could not recall all the words til u printed it and at 73 wanted to sing it again. Thank you so much!

  12. Janet ID Bertsch Alcozer September 16, 2016 / 4:35 am

    Thank you so much I had been looking for this for 60 years! Ever sin e my music teacher in H.S. taught it to me. I dearly love this song!

  13. Joyce Whitby October 21, 2016 / 11:49 am

    So many people have expressed my similar experience. I learned this at St. Benedict Academy, Pittsburgh, PA. in 1950. Have sung it to myself ever since. Had no idea it is so well known.

  14. Bonnie November 15, 2016 / 6:09 pm

    Thank you for your information. This song has also been in my head for years. We also sang this song in public grammar school. I have always loved nature and creation. It is something we really need to protect or there won’t be any Green Cathedrals left. Bless you for finding this song for all of us.

  15. Patricia Reece November 24, 2016 / 8:04 pm

    I heard George Beverly Shea, in his splendid baritone voice, sing this in the late’50’s or early’60’s. It’s one of those things that captures your heart. The somewhat plaintive, haunting melody is so perfect for the sentiment of the lyrics — having heard it, one can’t forget it! I’ve spent hours trying to find a recording of it. I’m thrilled to find your post and the comments from others here. Thank you so very much! Feels like I (in my 70’s) just found my way home after a long sojourn.

  16. Sylvia February 23, 2017 / 12:39 pm

    My music teacher taught this song to middle school students in the 50’s. It has remained in my thoughts all these years and would come to mind often. Love the words and the picture it brings to my minds eye. Nice to remember and meditate on.

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