St. Paul the Apostle Church (Manhattan)

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Saint Paul the Apostle Church
2014 St. Paul the Apostle Church 8-10 Columbus Avenue.jpg
October 2014
Saint Paul the Apostle Church is located in New York City
Saint Paul the Apostle Church
Saint Paul the Apostle Church
40°46′11″N 73°59′7″W / 40.76972°N 73.98528°W / 40.76972; -73.98528Coordinates: 40°46′11″N 73°59′7″W / 40.76972°N 73.98528°W / 40.76972; -73.98528
Location8-10 Columbus Avenue
Manhattan, New York City), New York
CountryUnited States
DenominationRoman Catholic
StatusParish church
Mother church of the Paulist Fathers
Founded1858 (parish)[1]
1859 (original church & rectory)
1876 (current church)
DedicatedJanuary 25, 1885
Functional statusActive
Heritage designationNRHP
NYC Landmark
Years built1876-1884[2]
ArchdioceseNew York
Pastor(s)Fr. Joseph Ciccone, CSP
Church of St. Paul the Apostle
ArchitectJeremiah O'Rourke and George Deshon[3]
Architectural styleLate Gothic Revival
NRHP reference #91001723
Significant dates
Added to NRHPDecember 5, 1991[4]
Designated NYCLJune 25, 2013

The Church of St. Paul the Apostle is a Roman Catholic church located at 8-10 Columbus Avenue on the corner of West 60th Street, in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City. It is the mother church of the Paulist Fathers, the first order of Roman Catholic priests founded in the United States.[5]

History and architecture[edit]

The parish was founded in 1858, and their original church was a simple brick structure built on part of the current lot, but the congregation soon outgrew it.[6][7]

A new Late Victorian Gothic Revival-style church was built between 1876 and 1884 designed by Jeremiah O'Rourke and the Rev. George Deshon, a military engineer trained at West Point,[7] who took over the project six years into construction when O'Rourke died,[6] and probably simplified the design.[7] Rev Isaac Hecker, who founded the Paulist Fathers, may have had a hand in its design as well, using the thirteenth-century Cathedral of Santa Croce, Florence as a model.[8] The building utilized Tarrytown grey granite stones salvaged from the Croton Aqueduct[6] along with stones from other structures in Manhattan.[7] The granite for the stone entrance steps was salvaged from the French Second Empire-style Booth’s Theatre on Sixth Avenue at 23rd Street.

The new building was dedicated on January 25, 1885,[8][9] but was still not complete at that time: the 114-foot (35 m) towers[10] had yet to reach their final height, and much of the interior declarations were still to be installed.[7]

The church is known for its ecclesiastical art,[10] and contains interior elements designed between 1887-1890 by Stanford White and many large decorated side chapels. Later stained glass windows were added by John LaFarge.[8] Other artists who worked within include Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Frederick MacMonnies, and Bertram Goodhue, who is responsible for the floor mosaics. White and Goodhue also offered advice on design elements. Lumen Martin Winter's Angel of the Resurrection adorns Hecker's sarcophagus, located in the northeast corner of the nave.[6][11] Other Paulist Fathers are entombed in crypt off a chapel on the lower level of the church.

The New York Daily Tribune reviewed the architecture as "vast, plain, fortress-like in its solidity—almost repelling in the aesthetic cast without and within, yet it is the most August, unworldly interior of this continent."[8]

The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991, and designated a New York City Landmark in 2013.[7] A major renovation and restoration of the church was begun around 2000, and as of 2013 is still underway.[7]


In 1858, the Paulist Fathers first took possession of a frame house containing a small chapel at 14 West 60th Street.[12] The community’s motherhouse is on West 59th Street, adjacent to the church. The present building dates from the 1930s.

The life of the parish has mirrored the growth, decline and rebirth of the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood. In 1903 the 9th Avenue elevated train ran directly in front of the church. In the 1930s, the Paulists launched the radio station WLWL. It was greatly impacted by creation of the Lincoln Center just two blocks to the north. The parish opened an elementary school in 1886 and a high school in 1922. The parish's last school closed in 1974.

The parish went through a financially difficult period in the 1960s and 1970s, with the possibility of bankruptcy in 1973, and razing the church for an apartment building was briefly considered. The church sold the western part of their lot in the mid-1980s,[7] and was able to build a new Parish Center at 405 West 59th Street by selling its air rights to enable the building of a 40-story apartment tower, which sits close to the church's south tower.[6]

Today, the parish, with six Masses each Sunday, has a large young professionals community and a Spanish-speaking community. It also hosts a bookstore and gift shop at the east end of the nave. St. Paul the Apostle serves as the parish for Catholic students at nearby Fordham University, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and the Juilliard School.

The large church basement has been used as a cafeteria for the parish school, a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, rehearsal space for The Rockettes and for boxing matches. From 1996–2001, it was the home of the multi-annual Big Apple Comic Convention.

Möller pipe organ[edit]

M.P. Möller Pipe Organ Company's Opus 9987, built in 1965.

The organ at The Church of St. Paul the Apostle is M.P. Möller Pipe Organ Company's Opus 9987, built in 1965. With 4,965 pipes, the instrument has 4 manuals (keyboards), 83 ranks, and 78 stops.[13] Twelve of the stops are made up of pipework from the church's previous instrument, E.M. Skinner Opus 544, built in 1925.[14] The organ speaks from two different parts of the room, giving the effect of two instruments in one. At the front of the sanctuary, with large pedal towers that surround the high altar, sits the main organ. Perched on the south wall of the sanctuary is the nave organ. Both organs are playable from one French-style console, built by the Peragallo Pipe Organ Company in 2000, which rests on a movable platform.[15] Visitors from around the world have experienced the sound of this instrument in the sanctuary's famously reverberant acoustic. Renowned organist Virgil Fox recorded The Christmas Album on the Möller Organ in 1965.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Locations: Church of St. Paul the Apostle".
  2. ^ "History of the Church" on the St. Paul the Apostle Church website
  3. ^
  4. ^ National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  5. ^ Lafort, Remigius. The Catholic Church in the United States of America: Undertaken to Celebrate the Golden Jubilee of His Holiness, Pope Pius X. Volume 3: The Province of Baltimore and the Province of New York, Section 1: Comprising the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn, Buffalo and Ogdensburg Together with some Supplementary Articles on Religious Communities of Women.. (New York City: The Catholic Editing Company, 1914), p.363.
  6. ^ a b c d e Dunlap, David W. (2004). From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan's Houses of Worship. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-12543-7., p.240
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Postal, Matthew A. "Church of St. Paul the Apostle Designation Report" New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (June 25, 2013)
  8. ^ a b c d Stern, Robert A. M.; Mellins, Thomas; and Fishman, David. New York 1880: Architecture and Urbanism in the Gilded Age. (New York: The Monacelli Press, 1999), p.770
  9. ^ Bonafide, John A. (September 1991). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Church of St. Paul the Apostle". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2011-03-25. See also: "Accompanying eight photos".
  10. ^ a b Wilkins, Sharon. "At. Paul the Apostle, Church of" in Jackson, Kenneth T., ed. (2010), The Encyclopedia of New York City (2nd ed.), New Haven: Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0-300-11465-2, p.1141
  11. ^ White, Norval and Willensky, Elliot. AIA Guide to New York City (rev. ed.), New York: Collier Books, 1978. p.146.
  12. ^ "Church of St. Paul the Apostle, New York", Paulist Fathers
  13. ^ "M. P. Möller, Inc., Opus 9987, 1965". Organ Historical Society. Archived from the original on September 20, 2016. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  14. ^ "Opus 544: Church of St. Paul the Apostle (New York City, NY)". Organ Historical Society. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  15. ^ "Church of St. Paul the Apostle - New York City". American Guild of Organists. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  16. ^ "Discography". The Virgil Fox Legacy. Retrieved July 11, 2016.

External links[edit]