Episcopal cathedral displays 500-foot '2,000 dragons' artwork in sanctuary           

Grace Cathedral of San Francisco, California, of the Episcopal Diocese of California, put on display the tapestry painting '2,000 Dragons' by Don Ed Hardy from April 27 to May 27, 2024.
Grace Cathedral of San Francisco, California, of the Episcopal Diocese of California, put on display the tapestry painting "2,000 Dragons" by Don Ed Hardy from April 27 to May 27, 2024. | Narges Tankbris

A California Episcopal Church cathedral has erected a 500-foot-long tapestry painting known as "2,000 Dragons" in its sanctuary to celebrate the Chinese year of the dragon.

Created by painter and tattoo artist Don Ed Henry, "2,000 Dragons" has been on display at Grace Cathedral of San Francisco since April 27 and remains there until Memorial Day Monday.

Rebecca Nestle, director of Events & Cultural Programs at Grace Cathedral, told The Christian Post the church "had a number of reasons" to display the artwork.

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"We saw it as a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the Year of the Dragon. Nob Hill, where we are located, is immediately next to Chinatown — they are our neighbors," said Nestle.

"It's rewarding to be able to offer the opportunity to Ed and Francesca Hardy to see the work again, and to share it with Ed's fans. It's also unexpected, and we love surprising our visitors with our embrace of modern art, especially juxtaposed against the gothic architecture of the cathedral."

Nestle said Grace Cathedral is "seeing increased numbers of visitors, drawn by the opportunity to see '2,000 Dragons' — many of whom have never set foot in Grace Cathedral before."

"We also consecrated and ordained our 9th [bishop], The Rt. Rev. Austin Rios, on May 4 encircled by the scroll. Around 800 people were in attendance, and 3,300 people have watched the livestream," she continued. "We're so pleased to have been able to share the work with so many people in the Diocese and beyond."

According to Bible Study Tools, the Bible contains 21 references to dragons, and the term is often used to describe "representations of the devil and demons that would confront the people of God in conflict and temptation." The Bible was first translated into English during a time in which scientists used the word "dragon" to describe large reptiles. 

Regarding the usual depiction of dragons in a negative context within Christianity, Nestle said the display is more about showcasing the inclusiveness of other cultures.

"Grace Cathedral is an inclusive place of worship. As the Episcopal cathedral for the San Francisco community, we have always positioned ourselves as a safe space where all are welcome," she explained.

"To juxtapose this against the cathedral's Christian iconography, in our sacred space, is another way to span across boundaries through acts of generous love to welcome all."

Grace traces its origins to the 1840s when it was Little Grace Chapel, with its current cathedral building being constructed over the course of the 20th century. At present, the congregation has an average weekly worship attendance of around 2,000 people, both in-person and online.

In 2018, Grace garnered national attention when it held a "Beyoncé Mass" service that featured the secular music of the famous Grammy Award-winning pop singer.

The Rev. Jude Harmon, director of innovative ministries for Grace Cathedral, defended the pop singer-focused service in an interview with SFGate.

"I know there are people who will say using Beyoncé is just a cheap way of trying to get people in the church," said Harmon at the time.

"But Jesus used very provocative images in the stories He would tell to incite people to ask hard questions about their own religious assumptions. He regularly provoked. We're following in the way of Jesus."

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