NYC Explorer: St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Located in the heart of Manhattan on Fifth Avenue, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is often referred to as America’s Church, welcoming over five million pilgrims each year to reflect and worship.

With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner – I thought we’d take a virtual pilgrimmage to this iconic and spiritual site.

I was blessed to visit St. Patrick’s in person in February, 2023. While, I knew the church would be gorgeous but I didn’t expect to be so humbled and awed by the mastery of the Gothic architecture, attention to detail and sweeping ceiling and intricate alcoves for solitude and worship.

St. Patrick’s has left a deep impact on me and I cannot wait to return on a future visit.

No matter your faith background, the architectural beauty and tranquility with St. Patrick’s makes it a must see site in NYC.

Facts about St. Patrick’s

  • St Patrick’s is located on the east side of Fifth Avenue, directly across the street from Rockefeller Center and The Atlas statue. This is a convenient location today, but when it was initially built this area was out of the way and ‘wilderness’
  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest decorated gothic style cathedral in the United States; it is also one of the largest Cathedrals in the United States
    • A cathedral is a church that contains the cathedra (Latin for ‘seat’) of a bishop, thus serving as the central church of a disocese, conference of episcopate.
    • St. Patrick’s is the headquarters of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. It also serves as an active parish church – the home base for many of New York City’s faithful
  • Created to affirm the ascendance of religious freedom and tolerance, St. Patrick’s was built by contributions of thousands of poor immigrants as well as 103 prominent New Yorkers who pledged $1000 each. I love the fact that so many faithful from all backgrounds helped fund the church. It continues to be a diverse and active parish today.
  • The land on which the cathedral sits was purchased in 1810, but construction did not start until 1858.
    • The original parish – Old St. Patrick’s is still on Mulberry Street and is the oldest Catholic building in the city.
  • The main designer was distinguished NY architect James Renwick. This renowned architect is also credited for designing The Smithsonian Castle in DC
  • The Civil War delayed the completion of St. Patrick’s until 1878. It was officially dedicated in 1879, with additions like the rectory and Lady Chapel added in the coming decades
  • The cathedral can accommodate 3,000 people…they also offer a virtual service (my favorite during COVID)
  • The cathedral is build of brick and clad in marble.
  • It takes up an entire city block
  • The spires rise 330 feet from street level
  • The main doors welcome visitors with depictions of holy men and women including:
    • St. Joseph, St. Issac Jogues, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Patrick, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
  • The main facade has three porches with bronze doors
  • Each of the nineteen bells in the north tower are named after states and no two bells are the same. They range in size from 173 pounds to 6,608 pounds – each playing a different note
  • The interior is inspired by English Gothic churches with niches for altars and statues
    • Roman artist Paolo Medici designed the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton altar. St. Elizabeth, a convert to Catholicism, was the first native born US Saint to be canonized. Learn more about her here.
  • The Cathedral includes more than 2,800 stained glass panels including a few by Tiffany
  • One of my favorite sculptures was the cathedral’s Pieta, which evokes the emotion of grief felt by Mary at the death of her son, Jesus.
    • The St. Patrick’s Cathedral Pieta is sculpted by William Ordway Partridge
  • The cathedral has two pipe organs; each with 9000 pipes, 150 ranks, 206 stops and 10 divisions – the glorious sound fills the cathedral with heavenly tunes
Planning your trip

The church is open most days for self-guided tours and meditation. They have a wonderful Adoration Chapel where you can sit with the Eucharist (Body of Christ) and meditate. To learn more and plan your visit, check out their website here.

Pro-tip: It is close to Rockefeller Center and The MOMA – If either are on your itinerary make sure to add St. Patrick’s into your itinerary.

#stpatrickscathedral #cathedrals #architecture #nyc

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