Churches and Cathedrals of Manhattan, New York City - 1

Personal notes and information gleaned following a visit October 2003, and features only the churches which I discovered during my seven days in New York. The churches face in all sorts of directions, the descriptions that follow therefore have ritual directions which assumes the high altar is at the east end of the building. The churches are all Roman Catholic, unless otherwise mentioned, and are featured in the order I visited them.

SS Cyril & Methodius and St Raphael (502 West 41st St.)

The parish was founded in 1886 but the present building begun in 1904 and designed by George H Streeton opened in 1914 as St Raphael's church, close to 10th Avenue. Originally used by the Irish, construction of the Lincoln tunnel approaches in the 1930s saw much of this population move away. Italian Franciscan friars took over the church as a large Italian population moved into the "West 40s". This population too moved away to the suburbs and the Croatians moved here from West 50th St in 1974. They set about renovating the "dilapidated and neglected" church which was reopened in 1977 and serves Croatian families from the whole of NYC.

The church is cruciform, although the nave and especially the chancel are rather short. Lower narrower five-sided apsidal sanctuary. The west (actual north) front is distinguished by two towers, both with similar features but the north tower bigger and higher. Spires recessed behind panelled parapets. These towers nd the facade are of grey stone with lighter stone dressings. The rest of the church is of red brick with stone dressings.

For my first Manhattan church, I sadly found it locked. The church is rather islolated among the approach roads to the Lincoln Tunnel and the Port Authority's Bus Terminal. To the east of the church is the adjoining Croatian Centre


Holy Cross (329 W 42nd St)

This church is the oldest remaining building on 42nd Street. However it is the second church on the site, the first building of 1852 being of wood with an iron gable cross which was not such a good idea as it was struck by lightning in 1867 and the church destroyed by the subsequent fire.

The rebuilding took place from 1868-70 to the designs of Henry Engelbert. It was further enlarged in 1885 by Lawrence J O'Connor. The church has a red brick facade with flanking twin towers in an Italianite Gothic form. Behind can be glimpsed the white central tower and dome which rises to 148 feet.

The interior is an eclectic mixture of Georgian classical, Romanesque and Byzantine forms. The nave and aisles are short for their height, only two bays plus the west bay deep, and have gallleries which continue across the transepts. Domed central tower over the crossing and a further bay for choir and side chapels and a full-height east sanctuary with classical paintings and pilaster below but a Hagia Sofia - like row of upper windows.The capitals more Byzantine than classical in design.

The mosaics below the dome and in the sanctuary are by Tiffany, as is the stained glass of the clerestory windows and wheel windows of the transepts. The glass in the sanctuary windows was made by Mayer & Co of Munich.

I found the church open.


page updated 26th March 2005