Churches and cathedrals are some of the most wondrous attractions in any city, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral & Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine are no exception. These prominent New York City landmarks stand out in a city full of must-see sites and buildings, and you’ll want to see them both on your visit to NYC.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral & Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine are located in two different parts of New York City. St. Patrick’s Cathedral takes up an entire block on Fifth Avenue from 50th to 51st streets, across from Rockefeller Plaza and smack dab in the middle of midtown Manhattan. Even with all of the chaos outside its walls, you’ll be enveloped in a sea of calm and quiet when you enter this Roman Catholic cathedral. St. Patrick’s is the seat of the city’s Archbishop, as well as the mother church of the Archdiocese of New York.
The cornerstone of the current cathedral, which is built in the Gothic Roman style, was installed in 1858, on the site of the former St. John’s Church — at that time, far outside the city. It took 21 years to complete the cathedral, due to the disruption of the Civil War and the need for more funds. St. Patrick’s Cathedral was officially opened in 1879, although its spires were built in 1888, and the Lady Chapel, stained glass, railings, gallery organ, bronze doors and more were all added later. Extensive renovations to reinforce and maintain the cathedral have been made in the last 35 years.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest Gothic Roman cathedral in the U.S., and was named after St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, in tribute to the many Irish immigrants in New York City at the time of its inception. While multiple masses are held every day at St. Patrick’s, the most famous one may have been the one held on 9/11/2001, shortly after the terror attacks.
Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine is located between Amsterdam Avenue and Morningside Park in the Morningside Heights neighborhood. Its cornerstone was laid in 1892 and, though services were held in various parts of the church as they were built, the entire cathedral wasn’t consecrated until 1941. During that time, its style changed to a Gothic Revival Style. St. Patrick’s Cathedral & Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine are both the mother churches of their New York dioceses–whereas St. Patrick’s is Roman Catholic, St. John the Divine is Episcopal, and the seat of the city’s Bishop.
Although the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine is the largest cathedral in the world, it is very much a working church. Not only are services held here daily, there is a clothing closet for those in need and a soup kitchen on Sundays. The cathedral maintains art exhibits, and an Artists-in-Residence program — some of whom give concerts and performances here. There is a Poet’s Corner modeled after Westminster Abbey in London, to honor great writers of all genres. (Unlike Westminster though, none are interred here.) The Cathedral of St. John the Divine also hosts civic engagement and public education lectures and roundtables.
Perhaps the best way to really get a feel for St. Patrick’s Cathedral & Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine is to attend a service or concert in their vast naves. St. John the Divine hosts many musical performances, including a Christmas concert and the Paul Winter’s Solstice Celebrations, which are not to be missed if you’re in town. Additionally, if you can attend a guided tour of the cathedral, you’ll not only see many behind-the-scenes cathedral highlights, but also one of the best views of Manhattan from atop the building.