Churches and Cathedrals of Manhattan, New York City - 10

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.

St Bartholomew (Episcopal) ( Park Avenue & E 50th Street)

The church is usually known as St Barts, and its Byzantine style is a departure for the architect Bertram Goodhue who so ably handles Gothic forms as at St Vincent Ferrer. It is a large building which appears to snuggle into the tall buildings that surround it; it dates from 1918-19. The portico (1903 by Stanford White) was re-erected here from the earlier St Bartholomew's (1872) on Madison Avenue & 40th St and some columns are reused in one of the chapels.

The interior has brick tunnel vaults and dominates in the way the exterior fails to do. Yet I frankly found it disappointing. East of the north transept is the baptistry, gilded and with a "Thorwaldsen" font (an angel holding a shell).

Church of the Incarnation (Episcopal) (Madison Ave & E35th St)

  Originally founded in 1850 at Madison and 28th St. as a mission chapel of Grace Church. It quickly became too small and the present site was acquired. The architect was Emlen T. Littell and the church was built 1864-65. The whole east end was destoyed by fire in 1882 and David Jardine rebuilt the church with an enlarged east end based on Littell's original designs. The spire, originally stipulated by Littell, was eventually built in 1896 by Heins & LaFarge.

Stylistically it is a mix of English Gothic, side lancets with decorated tacery, exuberant Geometric tracey in the five-light west window and near Perpendicular to the apse windows. The row of dormer windows in the roof, in place of a clerestory, is less succcessful, as are the impossibly thin pillars of the arcades. However the church does posess many interesting features and its glass sounds like a text-book of available studios, many imported from England(*). In the south aisle from west to east, Henry Holiday*, Heaton Butler & Bayne*, Clayton & Bell*, John LaFarge, Holiday*, LaFarge, William Morris* and Louis Confort Tiffany; in the north aisle Tiffany Studios, Guthrie & Davis, Tiffany Studios x 2 (both by Frederick Wilson), Unknown artist - possibly Morris & Co*, Cottin & Co*, Edward Burne-Jones* and Heaton Butler & Bayne*. The great west window is by C.E.Kempe* as are the windows in the north east chapel. The apse windows are by New York's Henry Wynd Young. Finally the font is embellished by a bronze statue of a young John the Baptist by the Irish-born American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

I found the church locked on two occasions but waited for 40 minutes for it to be unlocked looking up at the fog-shrouded top of the Empire State building and advising other would be visitors. It opens weekdays (except Thursdays) 1130-1400. Much more on the website, including a tour of the windows.

Our Lady of the Scapular and St Stephen (151 East 28th Street)

This brownstone church was built in 1854 in a Romanesque style to the designs of James Renwick Jr. Outside it looks rather dull but the painted interior comes as a complete surprise. Thin cast-iron columns divide the interior into nave, aisles, crossing and transepts, and chancel with double aisles, the outer ones with galleries. The piers also carry large foliated capitals and a fine lierne-vault with bosses.

The frescoes and murals are all the work of Constantine Brumidi, commissoned in 1866 and including a huge altarpiece of the Crucifixion in the style of the Italian baroque. In addition most of the windows have stained glass from Meyer & Co of Munich, Germany, and installed in the 1860s.


St George (Episcopal) (East 16th Street, overlooking Stuyvesant Square)

  Began life as the first chapel of ease founded from Trinity Church, Wall Street, in Beekman Street, in 1749.

Peter Stuyvesant donated part of his farm for a new church and construction began immediately in 1846 to the designs of Leopold Eidlitz and Otto Blesch. Fire left a gutted building in 1865 and the building was rebuilt to the original designs under the supervision of Eidlitz. The spires on the western (actually eastern) towers were removed in 1889 and never rebuilt.

Sadly I found the church and its ornate side chapel locked and although a youth was hosing down the steps and sidewalk from the church water supply he could not say whether the church would be opened. This was my last full day in New York and with much still to see I had to admit defeat getting inside here!

Armenian Catholic Cathedral (formerly St Ann) (110 East 12th Street)

Presents a rather inauspicious facade towards the road, this west front (actually north) has a small plain tower with large bell-openings. It sports a short openwork spire that appears to be of concrete and of fairly recent date. Entering via the small door into the church, I was unprepared for the vast interior of this church, which received its parish status in 1852. It seems apt that this church is now a cathedral.

The first church on this site was built as the 12th Street Baptist church in c1847 and this then became a synagogue 1854-68. The synagogue then became the RC Church of St Ann, and was rebuilt to plans by Napolean Le Brun, opening in 1871. The church was established as the Armenian Cathedral in 1983 but is now threatened with closure by the Archdiocese of New York (2003). I think this church is a gem, and is obviously relatively unknown to native New Yorkers and visitors alike. To lose such a building would be a tragedy.

POSTCRIPT - Indeed the cathedral has come down, although the tower may survive still. See this picture from May 2005 on the flickr site [CLICK HERE]



page updated 22nd May 2011