Churches and Cathedrals of Manhattan, New York City - 11

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 Mark's in the Bowery (Episcopal) ( E10th St & Second Avenue)

First church on site 1660 built by Peter Stuyvesant who was buried here in 1672. His grave is on the south side of the church. It fell into disuse but in 1793 Stuyvesant's grndson offered the site to the Episcopal church. The present church dates from 1795-99 with the steeple added in 1828. The portico, which is built of cast iron was added in 1854. There was a bad fire here in 1978 and the church was restored by the Edelman Partnership, reopening in 1983.
  I managed to sneak inside and found the church laid out for dance and four people wrapped in plastic attached to columns of the gallery. Yet the church still annouced services. One quick snap and I was outside again.

Grace Church (Episcopal) (Broadway and E 10th St)

The view of Grace Church (right) was taken long before my visit here, but the October 2003 day I called the steeple was shrouded in scaffolding and red sheeting as a major restoration was underway. The church was locked but a visit to the rectory to the north (through a very pleasant lawned garden) of the church and the lady priest showed me through into the church from there.

The church is built of white marble, apparently quarried by the inmates of Sing Sing Jail. The architect was James Renwick Jr. (who was only 23 when he designed it) and the church was completed in 1846. However there were concerns about the steeple and the spire was first built in wood, replaced with the marble spire of today in 1884. The restoration of the church began in 1995 and the delicate parapets and pinnacles and fine arrray of windows are revealed again in all their original glory. Hopefully it will not be too long before the spire glistens once more over Broadway.

The interior is breathtaking, cruciform, with fine lierne vaulting and a mix of Flamboyant and Geometric tracery. Unusually the crossing has no arches, the vaulting carried through nave choir and transepts without a break. The aisles half-embrace the tower, and the transepts have E & W aisles. There is a bust of Renwick in the north transept.

The church quickly became fashionable, and has staged many Society weddings, perhaps the most notorious being the staged wedding by Phineas T. Barnum of the midget General Tom Thumb in 1863.

My most lasting memory of the interior is the regular rumbling and shaking of the ground as a subway train goes by; I wondered at the time if this was the cause of the tower being in scaffolding! This must intrude into the services, it certainly breaks the reverential silence at other times.

Old St Patrick's Cathedral (263 Mulberry Street)

The second catholic church built in New York, it was originally the seat of the archbishop until the present St Patrick was built on Fifth Avenue. It dates from 1809-15 and the architect was Joseph F. Mangin.

The exterior is notably plain but does stand in its own graveyard (and underneath are numerous well-maintained burial vaults). These external walls hint at what was originally here as the interior of today is a rebuilding following a disasterous fire in 1866 to designs of Henry Engelbert.

I found the church locked but I chose to come here on a Wednesday. It is usually open everyday except Wednesdays 0800-1300 and 1500-2100. I enquired at the office but the priest would not let the lady take me inside. However whilst I took this picture a young polish priest came out and crossed the road to the church, and after a few words with him I was kindly allowed inside. I had arranged this to be the finale of my holiday, and in the end it was.


St Paul the Apostle (Columbus or 9th Ave & W 60th St)


I had visited here a couple of days before, when the camera batteries had given up. This was actually my last church of the holiday as, bags all packed and in store at the hotel, we had four hours to kill before we were being picked up to go to JFK for the flight home. I found the church open on both my visits.

The church is vast, built in 1876-84 to the designs of Jeremiah O'Rourke and the mother church of the Paulist order in the USA. The west facade (actual east) has twin towers and a large bas-relief of the Conversion of St Paul by Lumen Martin Winter. 300-foot high towers were planned for this front but never built. The interior was renovated in 1993 and alterations made to comply with Vatican II which included a new nave altar and the resiting of the baptistry into the west end of the nave, using the former communion rails to form a surround. At this time the ceiling was painted the present light blue colour. It was originally a deep cerullian blue to give the effect of a night sky and painted on it was the exact constellation of the midnght sky of January 25th 1885, the date of the church's dedication. The constellation configuration has been retained and was the work of Paulist Father George Searle who was a renowned astronomer.



After this we strolled into nearby Central Park. It was warm and sunny, so we sat and read awhile by one of the lakes. That afternoon saw us boarding a flight back to London, and trains to Bristol. Not every picture I took was successful, and time free from work has held up the production of these pages. Thanks to the internet I was able to gather more information on many of these churches and have found some pictures to improve on my own. However with the exception of archive photos, all the pictures on these Manhattan pages are my own.



page updated 25th August 2007