The Pacific School of Religion is arguably Holy Hill’s most notable structure. The largest and oldest school in the GTU, the PSR moved into its current location in 1926 following the Berkeley fire.
The dramatic, “fantasy” architecture of the PSR is a reflection of the prosperous (and delusional) 1920s. The Holbrook building takes inspiration from 15th century Gothic cathedrals and is loosely modeled on the architecture of the cloistered campuses of Oxford and Cambridge universities. Ratcliff attempted to remold the formerly residential Northside area with the look of a long-established academic community.
According to architectural historian Woodruff Minor, the building’s grandiose design was meant to serve as “a revivalist statement about the primacy of theology over the arts and sciences.” And whether the institution intended to convey this message or not, the architecture tells the story: the Gothic castle looms atop Holy Hill, looking down upon the neoclassical libraries of nearby UC Berkeley.
The symbols of different faiths underneath the windows in the photo above acknowledge the school’s interdenominational programs. In 1916, what was then known as the Pacific Theological Seminary changed its name to the Pacific School of Religion in order to emphasize its interdenominational status.
The chapel was supposed to be the crown jewel of the PSR, but was never fully realized. The schematic for the intricately designed PSR can be seen below.