Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, New York


The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, is the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, and is located at 1047 Amsterdam Ave, in Manhattan's Morningside Heights neighborhood. (Please note that all photos in this post will enlarge for easier viewing if clicked on)

To paraphrase its brochure that I collected at the entrance: The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine is chartered as a house of prayer for all people and a unifying center of intellectual light and leadership. People from many faiths and communities worship together in services held more than 30 times a week. The soup kitchen serves roughly 20,000 meals annually, and its Textile Conservation Lab preserves world treasures, concerts, performances, exhibitions, and civic gatherings allow conversations, celebrations, reflection, and remembrance.


The cathedral is the fourth largest Christian church in the world and ties with Liverpool Cathedral for the title of the largest Anglican cathedral and church.


The interior covers 121,000 square feet, and spans a length of 601 feet, and a height of 232 feet.



The cathedral 's construction was begun in 1892, and it went under many different style changes during its construction, beginning with a Byzantine-Romanesque Revival style and ending in Gothic Revival style.  In December of 2001 it had a massive fire, and was closed for repairs until November 2008. It remains somewhat unfinished, with construction, and restoration is a continuing process. The complete history timeline of the cathedral can be seen on its website at this link.



This was my first visit to the Cathedral, and when I entered the massive size of it took my breath away! There was scaffolding hanging form the ceiling to support an art exhibit--more about that at the end of this post.


Cathedrals seem to make a person's spirit soar because of their grandeur and architectural elegance. Considering that the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine suffered a giant fire, it was in remarkably good condition.


From west to east run three aisles of bronze floor medallions, referred to as the Pilgrims Pavement. The side aisle medallions show the names and crests of key pilgrimage sites, as well as significant sites in Angelican history.The central aisle marks the miracles performed by Jesus from birth through the Feeding of the Mulititide.



The rose stained glass window is the largest in the United States, and at forty feet in diameter it is the third largest in the world! It is made of over ten thousand pieces of glass. At its center is Jesus, surrounded by the New and Old testament prophets, as well as sixteen angels. Below it is the Lesser Rose Window, shaped like a seven-pointed star.



Each vertical set of stained glass windows is dedicated to one of the fourteen forms of human endeavor, including Labor, Medicine, Education, Military, Arts, and Sport. The ground level windows show a variety of historical and scriptural figures engaged in a particular activity--such a Jesus performing healing miracles.


This pulpit, found on the right, facing the front of the cathedral, is dedicated to the memory of Horatio Potter, Bishop of New York, 1854-1887.


Standing in the nave, looking back toward the front doors....


...looking forward from the same spot. The size of this cathedral is massive!


The stone pulpit on the left side of the cathedral, with a figure of Saint John the Divine.


Seven chapels are located from the ambulatory behind the choir. These chapels are known as the "Chapels of the Tongues, "and they were designed to represent the seven most prominent ethnic groups to first immigrate to New York City upon the opening of Ellis Island in 1892.


On permanent loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the elegantly carved wooden 15th century German choir stalls separate the Narthex from the Nave. The Cathedral campus has six organs. In the photo above you can also see a organist playing the "Great Organ," which was built by the Ernest M Skinner Company in 1910, and rebuilt and enlarged by G. Donald Harrison of Aeolian-Skinner in 1954. After the devastating fire in 2001, the Great Organ was painstakingly restored by Quimby Pipe Organs of Warrensburgh, Missouri.  The cathedral is known for its "Great Music in Great Spaces" concerts



The video above shows a special concert held at the cathedral called "Most Elevating Voices, the Musical Legacy of Andrew Carnegie: A Transatlantic Celebration featuring the voices of the Cathedral's massed choirs, the Oratorio Society of New York, the Manhattan School of Music Chamber Choir, and the famed Great Organ. (Please note there is about three minutes of the video shown before the organ music begins, and 19 minutes before the choirs begin to sing--it is magnificent to hear!)


More photos of some of the architectural and symbolic beauty of the cathedral. Please click on the photo to enlarge.


The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine is often used as an exhibition space for the arts, and the current exhibit called "Phoenix"--on display through 2014--was a feat of engineering an ingenuity by contemporary artist Xu Bing, who culled detritus from constructions sites across the rapidly changing urban landscape of Beijing to transform the objects into this monumental project.


Phoenix is composed of two birds, a male called Feng and a female called Huang. Feng and Haung weigh 12 tons and measure 90-100 feet long, and are suspended in the nave.



Click on the photo collage above to enlarge the photo and read more about the Phoenix.


They were  certainly an enthralling sight to see!



One of the "Golden Doors" -- bronze front doors of the Cathedral, seen from the inside. Cast by Barbedienne of Paris, who also cast the Statue of Liberty. Each door is 18 feet high, six feet wide and weighs three tons. The doors have 60 bas relief panels that depict Old and New Testament stories on the exterior side, and flowers and birds and natural imagery on the interior side.


An interesting event that takes place the first Sunday of October at the Cathedral--the "Blessing of the Animals" in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. The church is filled with men, women and children accompanied by their pets, and assorted guest animals such as llamas, sheep, camels, long horned steers, turtles, parrots, even bumblebees, etc, are escorted down the church aisle as the ceremony begins.  It is a very joyful celebration!



The video above shows  an example of an opening procession of animals, clergy, choir, dancers and guests. You can also see a video at Time magazine on this link that shows a little more of the ceremony.

There is also the annual Blessing of the Bicycles, where hundreds of cyclists, including the vulnerable bike messengers of New York City, wheel into the Great Crossing of the church to be blessed.  You can read more about this event on this NPR link.

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine is truly a magnificent place to visit, and I hope I've enticed you to want to see it someday and perhaps attend an event there. Come back soon as in a future post I'll show you a very unique and unusual fountain called the "Peace Fountain" that is located in the cathedral's 11.3 acre grounds

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34 comments:

Daniela said...

What a stately cathedral, Pat, it's truly magnificent!
I love Gothic art so much and I didn't think you had so superb examples in America; moreover with your wonderful photos you give us a chance to get in it almost as if could visit it by person ! Thank you my dear friend, have a beautiful Sunday and a happy new week ahead !
Thank you for everything you always share with us my dear, sending hugs xoxox
Dany

Snap said...

One of my favorite places. I saw it before the fire and it is wonderful to see that the restoration is progressing well. Beautiful post.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

What a magnificent cathedral Pat. The size and scope of the restoration is amazing.
Sam

Vee said...

It is easy to see why the spirit soars in such a place. That Phoenix is something!

(Course I also enjoyed the snapshot of the grandsons in your sidebar. They sure are cute, growing fast, and look like brothers!)

Pondside said...

Wow - that is fabulous, and a place I'd never before heard of. There must be something about the name St John the Divine, because the church of that name here is, though smaller, just as involved in art and social justice.

Sara said...

It is magnificent. Someday I'd like to visit there. And . . . the author Madeleine L'Engle was the church librarian there for many years, an interesting tidbit for those who know and love her work.

Betsy Adams said...

George has been in that gorgeous cathedral --but I haven't. I have however been in the cathedral in Washington DC which is similar...

I remember going to a worship service at the Nat. Cathedral one year when we were there at Cherry Blossom time... Hearing the organ/choir/processional/etc. made me cry my heart out. I was truly in AWE of that place and the feelings I had while being there...

Thanks for sharing... Have a wonderful Mem. Day...
Hugs,
Betsy

Old Kitty said...

What a lovely lovely church! I have the choral music playing as I'm typing these words - terrific music!! Loving it!!

The phoenix is amazing - what a history and such a symbol of integrity from the artist!

Thank you Pat! Take care
x

Sarah said...

Another amazingly wonderful post, Pat. I've visited this cathedral, but would love to attend a concert there.

eileeninmd said...

What a beautiful cathedral.. The stained glass windows are always a favorite of mine.. The choir music is lovely. Gorgeous post, Pat! Enjoy your week ahead!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

It really is grand and breathtaking in it's beauty. I'm glad you were able to take photos to share. I've never seen anything like it! Enjoy your holiday weekend! Hugs, Diane

Ida said...

Oh my gosh this is truly an amazing Cathedral. The stained glass alone would enthrall me. Can you just imagine how much grander Heaven will be.

StarTraci said...

What an outstanding cathedral -- the detail and beauty are overwhelming. Thanks for sharing!
:-)
Traci

The Gathering Place said...

Pat, what a beautiful cathedral! I'd love to see it in person. It rivals Europe's finest.

Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow said...

it's magnificent...listening to the music a bit now ! :)

podso said...

Hi Pat, you took some amazing pictures of this cathedral. It's interesting that you have not been in it all the years you lived near it until you come from Colorado for a visit! I'm glad you shared the pictures with us, and I hope you're having a nice holiday weekend.

carol l mckenna said...

Beautiful series of shots of a very majestic cathedral ~ Happy Week to you ~ xoxo

artmusedog and carol (A Creative Harbor)

Donna at Donna's New Day said...

Great pictures of a wonderful cathedral. I haven't been there but after seeing the Cathedral in Washington DC a couple of months ago, visiting this one moved higher up on my list of things to do on future vacations.

Arija said...

A wonderful church indeed and your photos bring it to life so well. Nice to have the videos also.

ladyfi said...

That is a beautiful church! Your photos are so lovely.

La Petite Gallery said...

This is so beautiful, that Pulpit
is gorgeous. I can imagine the sound effects for music. Thanks so much
great post as always.
yvonne

jeannettestgermain said...

Love Gothic cathedrals (had to study them for my art teachers degree) - I would have want to be there for the service honoring Francis of Assisi!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

You surprised me on this one Pat, stating that it was your first visit to St. John the Divine. I thought you had been everywhere in New York City. Great post. My graduation ceremony from Columbia Journalism school was held here. I'll never forget it.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Breathtaking Cathedral and it seems from your first paragraph that they know what is important.

AdriBarr said...

What an absolutely magnificent building. What a wonderful tour you have given us. It must be truly inspiring to stand in the cathedral. Just looking at all the extraordinary craftsmanship is astounding. Thanks, Pat!

backroadjournal said...

What a wonderful site to see. I asked my husband if he had been there when he lived in New York and he hadn't. We will have to try and visit someday.

La Petite Gallery said...

Hi Pat, Thanks for the comment. When I was in NYC May 20 the traffic was awful. It was the opening of the
9-11 Museum. Great post.
yvonne

gracieplace said...

Stunning Church! I really don't know why I didn't visit it while in NYC!!

Shannon @saltlicklessons.com said...

What?! 4th largest . . . wow. This building is remarkable. The sheer scale of it and the thought of the maintenance on it kind of blows my mind. You are an amazing virtual tour guide--all the shots of the windows and pulpits and the floors, not to mention all the info and history. I love your posts. :) Thank you!

diane b said...

What a fantastic Cathedral. So huge, the people looks so tiny in comparison. The stained windows are magnificent too. Great post.

Tracy said...

This was HUGE treat to see, Pat! Beautifully impressive place of worship... almost looks like something seen in Europe. And I love how this church is also like an art gallery! This year I've been gently re-discovering my Catholic roots and attending Mass again. And experiencing church in a new light. And speaking of light GLORIOUS windows there at St. John the Divine!! Thank you for taking us there, Pat. We're heading Stateside next week to visit my family. I'll be going to Mass with my Dad, and look forward to that, and much more. :o) See you back here in blogland soon! ((HUGS))

Pamela Gordon said...

Wow, that is a gorgeous cathedral. Amazing to see all the details, the stained glass, etc. Thanks for the great tour Pat!

toby said...

Wow, I *love* those stained glass windows - but the whole thing is truly amazing! Thanks for sharing this with us :)

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

What an awesome cathedral! I took in some of the concert...and also the 'animal parade' (that brought a smile). How special it would be to hear a live concert there!