St. Patrick's Cathedral (Manhattan)

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Not to be confused with St. Patrick's Old Cathedral.
St. Patrick's Cathedral
St. Patrick's Cathedral is located in New York City
St. Patrick's Cathedral
St. Patrick's Cathedral
40°45′31″N 73°58′35″W / 40.75861°N 73.97639°W / 40.75861; -73.97639
Location New York City, New York
Country United States
Denomination Roman Catholic
Website St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York
Dedication October 5, 1910
Earlier dedication May 25, 1879
Functional status Active
Architect(s) James Renwick, Jr.
Style Decorated Neo-Gothic
Number of spires 2
Spire height 330 feet (100 m)
Bells 19 (29,122.73 lbs)
Archdiocese Archdiocese of New York
Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Rector Rev. Msgr. Robert T. Ritchie
Organist/Director of music Jennifer Pascual
Organist(s) Daniel Brondel
RCIA coordinator Sueanne Nilsen
1913 photograph of the cathedral
Detail of the cathedral's façade (September 2006)
Detail of the cathedral's entrance (October 2007)
View of the cathedral from Rockefeller Center (May 2006)
View of the cathedral from across Fifth Avenue, with Lee Lawrie's bronze statue of Atlas in the right foreground (March 2005)

The Cathedral of St. Patrick (commonly called St. Patrick's Cathedral) is a decorated Neo-Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral church in the United States and a prominent landmark of New York City. It is the seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, and a parish church, located on the east side of Fifth Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets in midtown Manhattan, New York City, New York, directly across the street from Rockefeller Center and specifically facing the Atlas statue.

According to Catholic News Service (CNS) and the Catholic News Agency (CNA), Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan, the incumbent Archbishop of New York, announced before reviewing the city's parade on St. Patrick's Day 2012 that the Cathedral would undergo a massive five-year, three-phase, $175 million renovation because of crumbling bricks, faulty heating, and acid rain and pollution that has eaten away at the Tuckahoe marble of the 135-year-old church. Early donors and grants from the Archdiocese and the Trustees of the Cathedral have already raised $45 million for the first phase, which began in late March. This involves repairing, restoring, and cleaning the soot-covered exterior, and an extensive cleaning of the outside and inside surfaces of the stained glass windows. The Cathedral will remain open during the renovations and work will pause during Masses, according to the Cathedral's rector, Monsignor Robert T. Ritchie.[1][2]


Purchase of the property[edit]

The land on which the present cathedral sits was purchased in 1810.[3][4] The Jesuit community built a college on the site,[5] three miles north of the city. It contained a "fine old house," which was fitted with a chapel of St. Ignatius.[6] The school closed in 1814 and the Jesuits sold the lot to the diocese. In 1813, the diocese gave use of the property to Dom Augustin LeStrange, abbot of a community of Trappists (from the original monastery of La Trappe) who came to America fleeing persecution by French authorities. In addition to a small monastic community, they also looked after some thirty-three orphans. With the downfall of Napoleon in that year, the Trappists returned to France in 1815, abandoning the property. The property at this point was designated for a future cemetery. The neighboring orphanage was maintained by the diocese into the late nineteenth century. Some of the Trappists resettled to Canada and eventually founded St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts.[7]

Bishop DuBois reopened the chapel in 1840 for Catholics employed at the Deaf and Dumb Asylum and in the general neighborhood.[6] A modest frame church was built for the parish of St. John the Evangelist and dedicated May 9, 1841 by the Rev. John Hughes, administrator of the diocese. Tickets were sold to the dedication to ease the parish's debt level, managed by a lay Board of Trustees, but to no avail and the property mortgage was finally foreclosed on and the church sold at auction in 1844.[6] The stress is said to have contributed to the death that year of the church's pastor, the Rev. Felix Larkin.[6] The experience was blamed on the management of the trustees and this incident is said to have played a significant role in the abolishment of the lay trusteeship, which occurred shortly thereafter.[6] The young and energetic Rev. Michael A. Curran was appointed to raise funds for the devastated parish, and shortly fitted up an old college hall as a temporary church.[6] Fr. Curran continued raising funds to buy back the church during the Great Famine in Ireland, eventually succeeding and taking the deed in his own name.[6] "The site of St. Patrick's Cathedral, hence, came to the Church through the labors of this young priest and the self-denial of his countrymen and not by the gift of the city."[6] The debt was finally all paid for by 1853 when it was clear a large church was needed and the site was selected as appropriate for the new cathedral.[6]

Construction of the cathedral[edit]

The Diocese of New York, created in 1808, was made an archdiocese by Pope Pius IX on July 19, 1850. In 1853, Archbishop John Joseph Hughes announced his intention to erect a new cathedral to replace the Old Saint Patrick's Cathedral in downtown Manhattan. The new cathedral was designed by James Renwick, Jr. in the Gothic Revival style. On August 15, 1858, the cornerstone was laid, just south of the diocese's orphanage. At that time, present-day midtown Manhattan was far north of the populous areas of New York City.[8]

Work was begun in 1858 but was halted during the Civil War and resumed in 1865. The cathedral was completed in 1878 and dedicated on May 25, 1879, its huge proportions dominating the midtown of that time. The archbishop's house and rectory were added from 1882 to 1884, and an adjacent school (no longer in existence) opened in 1882.[9] The spires were added in 1888, and an addition on the east, including a Lady chapel, designed by Charles T. Mathews, was begun in 1900.[10] The Lady Chapel's stained-glass windows were made between 1912 and 1930 by English stained glass artist and designer Paul Vincent Woodroffe.[11] In 1927 and 1931, the cathedral was renovated, which included enlarging the sanctuary and installing the great organ.[12] The cathedral and associated buildings were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976.[13][3][14]


An extensive restoration of the cathedral was begun in 2012 and is planned to last 3 years at a cost of $177 million.[15]


Interior images of St. Patrick's Cathedral[edit]

Architectural features[edit]

The cathedral, which can accommodate 2,200 people, is built of brick clad in marble, quarried in Massachusetts and New York. It takes up a whole city block, between 50th and 51st streets, Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue. At the transepts it is 174 feet wide and 332 feet long. The spires rise 330 feet (100 meters) from street level. The slate for the roof came from Monson, Maine.[11]

Stained glass[edit]

The windows were made by artists in Boston, Massachusetts and European artists from Chartres, France and Birmingham, England. Charles Connick created the rose window.[11]


The Roman artist Paolo Medici designed the Saint Elizabeth altar. The Saint John Baptist de la Salle altar, one of the few original side-chapel altars, was sculpted by Dominic Borgia. The Papal bull is featured in the adjoining stained-glass window. Tiffany & Co. designed the Saint Louis and the Saint Michael altar.[11]

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, there was a renovation of the cathedral's main altar area under the guidance of Archbishop Francis Spellman, then cardinal. The previous high altar and reredos were removed and are now located at Spellman's alma mater, Fordham University, in the University Church. The new items include the sanctuary bronze baldachin and the rose stained glass window. The altar was further renovated in the 1980s, under the direction of Cardinal John Joseph O'Connor. To be more visible to the congregation, a stone altar was built from sections of the side altars and added to the middle of the sanctuary.[11] However, this altar was removed in 2013.

Art works[edit]

The Pietà, sculpted by William Ordway Partridge, is three times larger than Michelangelo's Pietà. The cathedral's Stations of the Cross won an 1893 artistry prize at Chicago's World's Columbian Exposition. Commemorating his visit to the city in 1979, Pope John Paul II bust is located in the rear of the cathedral.[11]


The original pipe organs, built by George Jardine & Son in the 19th century, have been replaced. The chancel organ, in the north ambulatory, was made by the St. Louis, Missouri, firm of George Kilgen & Son, and installed in 1928; it has 3,920 pipes. The grand gallery organ, by the same company, was installed in 1930, and has 5,918 pipes.[16]

The combined organs, totaling 177 stops and 9,838 pipes, can be played from either of two five-manual consoles installed in the early 1990s to replace the original Kilgen consoles.

Burials and funeral Masses[edit]

Located underneath the high altar is a crypt in which notable Catholic figures that served the Archdiocese are entombed. They include:

The eight past deceased Archbishops of New York:

Other interments:

In the above list, Cardinal O'Connor declared Pierre Toussaint and Cardinal Cooke to be servants of God, a step in process of being declared a saint of the Catholic Church. Toussaint was declared venerable in 1996 by Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Sheen was declared venerable by Pope Benedict XVI on June 28, 2012.

Four of the Cardinals' galeros (those of Cardinals McCloskey, Farley, Hayes, and Spellman) are located high above the crypt at the back of the sanctuary. Cardinal Spellman's galero was also worn by Pope Pius XII (as Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli) until the latter's election to the papacy at the 1939 Papal conclave. In 1967, the ceremony of the consistory was revised by Pope Paul VI and therefore no galero was presented to Cardinal Cooke or any of his successors.

Some notable people whose Requiem Masses were said at the cathedral include New York Yankees greats Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, and Billy Martin; legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, singer Celia Cruz, entertainer and host Ed Sullivan, former Attorney General and U.S. Senator from New York Robert F. Kennedy, New York Giants owner Wellington Mara, and former Governor of New York Hugh Carey. Special memorial Masses were also held at the cathedral following the deaths of artist Andy Warhol, baseball player Joe DiMaggio, and noted author William F. Buckley, Jr.

In popular culture[edit]

  • Nelson DeMille's novel, Cathedral, (1981) concerns a fictional seizure and threatened destruction of Saint Patrick's Cathedral by members of the Irish Republican Army. Much of the novel is set in and around the cathedral and details of the cathedral's structure contribute important elements to the plot.
  • In the Giannina Braschi's novel, Empire of Dreams (1994), the ringing of the church bells at the cathedral marks a pastoral revolution in New York City.
  • The cathedral is also featured in the film Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) where Murray and Sheila are touring New York City, but they were attacked by the Bat Gremlin. Murray managed to ward off the Bat Gremlin, and dunk him in wet cement. The Bat Gremlin flew away, but got stuck atop Saint Patrick's Cathedral where the cement quickly hardened, transforming the Gremlin into a living gargoyle, frozen in time.
  • The underground ruins were the setting for the climax of Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) where Taylor destroyed Earth with the Alpha-Omega bomb. Centuries earlier, mutant humans surviving a nuclear holocaust founded a religion on the bomb (later depicted in Battle for the Planet of the Apes), reconsecrated the cathedral to their new religion, and installed the bomb in front of the organ pipes in place of the crucifix. This was spoofed in a scene from the TV show Futurama where Fry, Leela, et al. are visiting the sewer mutants beneath the ruins of Old New York. Fry sticks his head in the cathedral, sees the bomb, and says, "So you guys worship an unexploded atomic bomb?" A mutant replies, "Not really, it's mostly a Christmas and Easter thing."

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Restoring St. Patrick's Cathedral to cost $175 million, take five years. Catholic News Service. March 19, 2012. Retrieved September 4, 2012
  2. ^ Cardinals launch drive to restore St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Catholic News Service. March 20, 2012. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
  3. ^ a b Pitts, Carolyn. "St. Patrick's Cathedral, Lady Chapel, Rectory, and Cardinal's Residence". National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination. August 1976. National Park Service.
  4. ^ Lafort, Remigius, S.T.D., Censor. (1914). The Catholic Church in the United States of America: Undertaken to Celebrate the Golden Jubilee of His Holiness, Pope Pius X. Volume 3. New York City: The Catholic Editing Company. p. 304.
  5. ^ Lafort, Remigius, S.T.D., Censor. (1914). The Catholic Church in the United States of America: Undertaken to Celebrate the Golden Jubilee of His Holiness, Pope Pius X. Volume 3. New York City: The Catholic Editing Company. p. 276.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Lafort, Remigius, S.T.D., Censor. (1914). The Catholic Church in the United States of America: Undertaken to Celebrate the Golden Jubilee of His Holiness, Pope Pius X. Volume 3. New York City: The Catholic Editing Company. pp. 339-340.
  7. ^ Farley, John M. (1908). History of St. Patrick's Cathedral. Society for the Propagation of the Faith. 
  8. ^ Farley, John Murphy. (1908). History of St. Patrick's Cathedral Society for the propagation of the faith. pp. 49, 111, 115, 122.
  9. ^ Farley, John Murphy. (1908). History of St. Patrick's Cathedral Society for the propagation of the faith. pp. 127–128, 130, 151.
  10. ^ Farley, John Murphy. (1908). History of St. Patrick's Cathedral Society for the propagation of the faith. pp. 140, 163.
  11. ^ a b c d e f St. Patrick’s Cathedral (RC). New York City Architecture. Retrieve 4 September 2012.
  12. ^ Cathedral of Saint Patrick. The NYC Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Retrieve 4 September 2012.
  13. ^ St. Patrick's Cathedral, Lady Chapel, Rectory and Cardinal's Residence. National Historic Landmark summary listing, September 18, 2007. National Park Service.
  14. ^ St. Patrick's Cathedral, Lady Chapel, Rectory, and Cardinal's Residence. National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination. August 1976. National Park Service.
  15. ^ St. Patrick’s Cathedral Set To Undergo $177 Million Restoration. CBS News New York. July 7, 2012.
  16. ^ Unknown writer (undated)."Cathedral of Saint Patrick" NYC Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Accessed August 12, 2009.

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