Travels

New York St Patrick’s Cathedral

Somewhere in Midtown Manhattan, there’s a cathedral that would be celebrating its 150th anniversary very soon. It is considered “Americ’s Parish Church” as many immigrants in the mid 19th century would have come from Ireland and landed here in New York. This Catholic church is St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, and no city is more associated with the Irish than New York. He is my favourite saint as he purportedly banished snakes from Ireland – Ireland (like New Zealand) has no snakes.

The central gable on top of the main entrance of the church

In 1853 Archbishop John Hughes announced his inspired ambition to build the “new” St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Ridiculed as “Hughes’ Folly,” as the proposed, near-wilderness site was considered too far outside the city, Archbishop Hughes, nonetheless, persisted in his daring vision of building the most beautiful Gothic Cathedral in the New World in what he believed would one day be “the heart of the city.”

The 9,000-pound bronze doors at the main entrance were designed to be opened using one hand.  

Neither the bloodshed of the Civil War nor the resultant lack of manpower or funds would derail the ultimate fulfilment of Hughes’ dream and architect, James Renwick’s bold plan. The cornerstone of the new St. Patrick’s Cathedral was laid in 1858 and her doors swept open on 25 May 1879. The newspapers hailed the new Cathedral as “the noblest temple ever raised in any land to the memory of Saint Patrick, and as the glory of Catholic America”.

There are a total of 94 stained-glass windows in the cathedral and their completion took place in the 1940s. Those artists include: Charles Connick of Boston; Paul Woodroffe of Chipping Camden, Great Britain; Henri Ely of Nantes, France; Nicholas Lorin of Chartres, France; and Charles Morgan of New York.

The first of the stained glass windows was installed in 1909 with the remainder to follow over the next twenty-five years. They were designed and constructed in England, France and Germany.

1884 – Cardinal McCloskey was presented with the beautiful marble pulpit as a gift from the clergy.

The first American Cardinal, Cardinal John McCloskey, was invested in the old Cathedral in 1875. On the occasion of his fiftieth anniversary as a priest in 1884, Cardinal McCloskey was presented with the beautiful marble pulpit as a gift from the clergy. 

The spires of the Cathedral were completed during the stewardship of Archbishop Michael Corrigan in 1888. 

In 1927, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the church, the sanctuary was enlarged, the choir gallery was rebuilt, new chancel and gallery organs were built, a new baptistery was added and new nave flooring and pews were put in place.

The sanctuary was enclosed by an oak screen and a handsomely designed altar railing was added. Under the high altar is a crypt in which notable Catholic figures that served the Archdiocese of New York are entombed. It is accessed by a set of doors behind the high altar.

There’s a hidden window in the cathedral. It’s in keeping with Gothic cathedral tradition that glory is to be given to God, who sees things in secret that humans can’t.

The south ambulatory has a marble Pietà sculpture designed by William Ordway Partridge and completed in 1905. The cathedral’s replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà is three times larger than the original sculpture in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Chapels

There are twelve chapels in the side aisles. Located under the side aisles’ windowsills, the chapels each measure 14 feet (4.3 m) wide and 18 feet (5.5 m) high. The chapels have similar vaulted ceilings to the nave, and each has its their own altars. On the northern side-aisle is a dark-wood baptistery on a marble podium, The baptistery was designed by John La Farge.

Altar of Saint Rosé of Lima

 The chapels include one for St. Bernard and St. Bridget. Among the altars are those for Saint Elizabeth, designed by Roman artist Paolo Medici; a Saint Jean-Baptiste de La Salle altar, sculpted by Dominic Borgia; and others

The Chapel of Saint Sharbel consists of a hand-crafted mosaic depicting Saint Sharbel in the mountains of Lebanon, near the Monastery of St. Maron, with a landscape of thriving cedars and crystalline Mediterranean waters denoting a life in the Spirit. Saint Sharbel is known for his monastic spirituality and miraculous gifts of healing. In addition to his native country of Lebanon. At the center of the chapel is a niche with a kneeler and a table displaying first-class relics of Saint Sharbel. 

Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of Charles Lewis Tiffany who originally founded the storied New York company in 1837, produced some extremely interesting ecclesiastical designs that include the Saint Louis and the Saint Michael altars (L). Saint Anthony of Padua (R) was a Priest and Doctor. In a sermon he once taught that “Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak.”

The life of the body is the soul; the life of the soul is God.

St. Anthony of Padua

The new altar at the Lady Chapel consists of a white-marble reredos, an altar table, with a multicoloured inlaid marble frontal named “Annunciation” designed by Hildreth Meiere, and a statue of Mary on top.

Over the years, many other devotees donated other saints to be included in the altars, including this statue of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who was canonised in 2019. The statue was place at the altar of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. A relic of the “Little Flower” is on display in the lantern next to the altar.

Inside the transepts are the Stations of the Cross, which are carved in stone and were manufactured by the Stoltzenberg Company in Roermond, the Netherlands. There are five Stations of the Cross in total. Three of them received prizes from the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 before they were installed at the cathedral.

Altars of St Bernard and St Bridget

While this cathedral has become a major tourist attraction, do remember that it is still a holy place for worship and quiet prayer and reflection. Please be respectful and solemn.

Visited Aug 2022

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