The commanding site of St. Paul’s Cathedral sits on the edge of a bluff. In a biblical context, it can be seen as permitting the House of God to look down, literally and symbolically, on moneychangers (as represented by downtown St. Paul) and Caesar (as represented by the state capitol).
The interior abounds in color—marble, metalwork, stained glass, and painting. There are at least twenty-five varieties of marble on display from nine countries. Their colors range from radiant red (Rojo Alicante from Spain in the Sacred Heart Chapel) to deep green (Tinos from Greece in the vestibules) to a black flecked with gold (Portora from Italy in the baldachin columns.)
An unusual feature of the cathedral is the Shrine of Nations: six chapels arrayed in a semicircle behind the altar, installed 1926–1928. These commemorate ethnic groups that contributed labor and money to the Cathedral project: Irish, French Canadian, Italian, German, and Slavic. A sixth, of St. Therese, represents other ethnic groups in general. Each contains a central statue of a patron saint, two flanking stained glass windows, and, in the floor, a circular slab of marble from the country.