“Our horizon is the creation of a noble society to which, like the medieval builder of those glorious cathedrals, you will have added your conception, your artful piece of stone.” ~ Adrienne Clarkson
Given our young history, there are not many buildings that will make you awe struck when you enter them. That have ornate designs that take you back to medieval times, and let the imagination run wild. Perhaps given New York City’s stature in the world, it is only fitting that many of the few we do have reside here.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is one such architectural phenom.
Born and raised Catholic, Saint Pat’s has always been a well known symbol of Catholicism in North America. Yet, there is something about architecture that transcends even what it was designed for. Perhaps it is because it is one of the most ornately designed historical buildings in the United States, but regardless of what religion you are, you can not help but be awestruck by it. Nestled amongst buildings that are not just more modern, but taller, It stands ornately stoic and steadfast amongst the ever changing landscape of Midtown.
While the land was purchased by Jesuits in 1810, it was not until 1858, that the first cornerstone was laid for the cathedral to replace Old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral which was located in lower Manhattan. before that it had been a college, a small monastic commune, an orphanage, an asylum for the deaf, a cemetery and finally a church. It wasn’t until New York became an archdiocese in 1950 that the need for a new cathedral was determined and the Midtown location selected.
Due to the Civil War, construction of the original structure was not completed until 1878. Additions have since been added, including the famed spires, that for a period made the Cathedral the tallest building in the city. The Lady’s Chapel was also built later on and finally completed in 1930 when the last of the stained glass pains were inserted.
In 1976 it was declared a national landmark and is one of the most visited churches in the world.
Designed by James Renwick Jr. It is the largest Neo-Gothical styled Catholic Cathedral in the United States. It is mostly comprised of marble, and takes up a whole city block. Not only is the exterior a symbolic work of art, but the interior is as well. With hundreds of ornately stained glass windows designed by various artists through out the world, the Cathedral itself acts as a museum of sorts showcasing gorgeous religious artifacts, paintings, and architecture.
Not only has it won awards for the stations of the cross, it houses one of the largest Pieta sculptures, even bigger then Michelangelo’s own depiction located in the Basilica. The church has several alters and chapels, as well as prayer nooks in offering to a variety of Catholic saints. They are all ornately done making one feel like they have stepped into a cathedral in Europe, and not one in the heart of midtown.
Despite it’s ornately intimidating structure, there is a welcoming feel that beckons you inside. The doors always seem open when I walk past, and there are always people around. The church has daily mass, usually located in the smaller chapel, but it also holds mass in the larger sanctuary. Anyone is welcome, and while people might pause and listen, or even join in the service, many more are milling reverently about.
It might seem odd now, located across from Rock Center, in what is a true commercial and tourist area. Yet it offers a refuge against the craziness. It offers history and a sense of peace, in a time that is so modern and busy. Whether you are going there to be closer to God, or whether you go because it s on your bucket list, or whether you go because you appreciate good architecture. Or whatever the reason. It is a stunning magnificent place that everyone should go at least once.
Have you been to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral? Have you been to any other Cathedrals?