Houses of Worship: Saint Patrick’s Cathedral
1853, the Archbishop of New York plans “to erect a Cathedral in the City of New York that may be worthy of our increasing numbers, intelligence and wealth as a religious community, and at all events, worthy, as a public architectural monument, of the present and prospective crowns of this metropolis of the American continent.” By this time, Manhattan really only extended to 42nd street. It is only in the 1850s that city commissioners purchase the land that would become Central Park. So, when the cornerstone is laid in 1858, it is considered to be in the wilderness, located so far outside the city that some called plans for this cathedral “Hughe’s Folly.” Today it stands in the bustling heart of Manhattan as the preeminent Catholic Church in America: Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.
James Renwick, an architect revered throughout New England, designed the Cathedral in 1953 but it wouldn’t be until 1858 that the first cornerstone would be laid between 5th and Madison and 50th and 51st, on the site of the old Saint John’s Church. Construction paused only for the Civil War and getting additional funding. It was opened officially in 1879 and hailed as “the noblest temple ever raised in any land to the memory of Saint Patrick, and as the glory of Catholic America.”
The Church covers an entire city block, is 330 feet tall and seats 2,400 congregants at a time. It was designed in the Gothic Revival style and made with white marble, thousands of panels of stained glass and over 9,000 pipes in its organ. The centuries-old design contrasts with the adjacent Saks 5th Avenue neo-Renaissance architecture and Rockefeller Center’s Art Deco motif.
The church is led by His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, who was named Archbishop of New York by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 and elected to the College of Cardinals in 2012. He presides over services at the church as well as oversees the churches of the New York diocese which serve nearly 300 parishes and 2.8 million Catholics in Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx in New York City and nearby counties. Their mission is to live and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, aware of the local area and the world, the spiritual and the material, the present and the future.