Old St. Hilary's Chapel – Belvedere Tiburon, California - Atlas Obscura

Old St. Hilary's Chapel

One of the last remaining Carpenter Gothic churches is situated on a wildflower conservatory overlooking the bay. 


Old St. Hilary’s Chapel dominates the Tiburon skyline. Built in 1888 as a place of worship for local railroad workers, this simple church can be spotted from almost anywhere in Tiburon, its bright white coat of paint standing out against the blue sky.

Constructed using redwood, with redwood interiors and a ceiling made from Douglas Fir, this Carpenter Gothic church is one of the last remaining structures of its kind, saved from destruction after being purchased by the Landmark Society in 1959.

The church is named for St. Hilary of Poitiers, a 4th-century French saint and the patron saint of scholars. The original stained glass windows once depicted scenes that included St. Hilary, but they were broken and replaced with amber stained glass.

The electric lights inside the chapel are replicas of the original oil-burning chandeliers. A crucifix salvaged from a church in Santa Fe dominates the nave. Local residents have donated hand-sewn needlepoint cushions for the pews, which feature designs of the local wildflowers.

The chapel is surrounded by an impressive wildflower conservatory, home to over 217 species of ferns, grasses, and other seed-bearing plants. The area’s geological makeup, which includes several freshwater springs and level plateaus with deep soil structure, creates a perfect biome for many rare plants, two-thirds of which are native to the region.

Know Before You Go

The chapel is open 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays, from April to October. The Old St. Hilary's Open Space Preserve and John Thomas Howell Wildflower Conservatory are next door.

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September 7, 2018

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