St Patrick's Cathedral

St Patrick's Cathedral (87)

Saint Patrick's Cathedral stands out for its exuberant Gothic style in contrast to the skyscrapers that surround it, such as the Rockefeller Center, for example. This beautiful cathedral is clearly inspired by the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe, with its classic cross-shaped layout, its side chapels and its delicate and slender frame that seems to reach towards the sky.

It was Archbishop John Hughes himself who entrusted the project to the famous architect James Renwick Jr. New Yorkers soon dubbed the work as "the madness of Hughes", as in the 19th century this area was still far removed from the city and was practically deserted.

But the fact is that the Catholic community grew and the Old Cathedral, which is located in the neighbourhood of Nolita, started to seem inadequately small for servicing so many church-goers. We should mention that, in the early 19th century, New York already had over 200,000 Irish Christians, who considered St. Patrick as their patron saint. They were simple, humble country people who worked mostly in construction, loading and unloading cargo at the port or, in the case of women, in domestic service.

Thus, the foundation stone of the new cathedral was laid in 1859, but the consecration did not come until 1879, because, among other things, its construction was interrupted by the Civil War of 1861-1865. The truth is that it is only thanks to the donations of thousands of Irishmen and women that we are able to admire this magnificent cathedral today. Anecdotally, you should know that John Hughes himself introduced a rather curious clause in the contract as a result of the reputation of the Irish community as heavy drinkers, which clause explicitly prohibited the consumption of alcoholic beverages by the construction workers during working hours.

In addition to the original structure, over the years there have been several renovations and expansions, such as the two needles measuring over 100 metres in height, which were added in 1888, or the Lady Chapel located behind the altar and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, added in 1906. Thus, Saint Patrick's Cathedral is the largest Catholic church in the city and the United States and can now accommodate some 2,400 Christians.

With its marble and stone facades, its elegant and stylized windows, with its magnificent Rose Window representing the mysteries of the Rosary, with its slender spires that reach towards the sky, and its hundreds of exquisite details, the cathedral will not leave you unmoved. We encourage you to come and discover its beautiful interior, with its many shrines, such as those of Saint Michel and Saint Louis, designed by Tiffany's, or the famous altar of Saint Elisabeth, designed by Paolo Medici of Rome and built in honour of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American citizen to be canonized. Her church and home can be visited in southern Manhattan, next to Battery Park. Another notable work is the Pietà, which is no less than 3 times larger than that of Michelangelo Pietà in the Basilica of San Pietro in the Vatican.

Also, do not miss the beautiful stained glass windows, which have been created by different artists from France, England and the United States. Although it is difficult to see them lit by natural light because the cathedral is surrounded by tall buildings, if it's sunny and you take some time to admire the decorations, you will see how the rays can sneak between the building and illuminate the interior of the cathedral. It is a magical moment.

Finally, we can assure you that although you may not know this, you have probably seen this cathedral on television and in film many a times. For example, it was featured in the Planet of the Apes, in 1970, in Spiderman in 2002, and was even the location of a wedding in the famous series Ugly Betty.

If you want a good snapshot for your New York album, one of the most typical images you can take is in front of St. Patrick’s, with the sculpture of Atlas of the Rockefeller Center in the foreground and the cathedral in the background. Others, however, prefer a different frame, shooting the cathedral from the intersection of Fifth Avenue with 50th Street, with the Olympic Tower Building in the background. But our strongest recommendation is that you take your time to find the cathedral’s most photogenic side by yourself because, without a doubt, Saint Patrick's Cathedral will be a bright star in your New York photo album.

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