Church of the Transfiguration, Roman Catholic (Manhattan)

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Church of the Transfiguration
Church of the Transfiguration Five Points NYC.jpg
Church of the Transfiguration, formerly Zion Protestant Episcopal Church
Church of Transfiguration is located in Manhattan
Church of Transfiguration
Church of Transfiguration
Church of Transfiguration is located in New York
Church of Transfiguration
Church of Transfiguration
Church of Transfiguration is located in the United States
Church of Transfiguration
Church of Transfiguration
Location25 Mott St.
Manhattan, New York City
Coordinates40°42′52.3″N 73°59′56.5″W / 40.714528°N 73.999028°W / 40.714528; -73.999028Coordinates: 40°42′52.3″N 73°59′56.5″W / 40.714528°N 73.999028°W / 40.714528; -73.999028
Built1801 (rebuilt 1815)
Architectsteeple and alterations (1868):
Henry Engelbert[2]
Architectural styleGeorgian Gothic
NRHP reference No.80002682[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPApril 16, 1980
Designated NYCLFebruary 1, 1966

The Church of the Transfiguration is a Roman Catholic parish located at 25 Mott Street on the northwest corner of Mosco Street (formerly Park Street) in the Chinatown neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City.[3] The parish is under the authority of the Archdiocese of New York and is staffed by the Maryknoll order.

History and description[edit]

The church was built in 1801 in the Georgian style of architecture for the Zion English Lutheran Church.,[4] a Lutheran congregation that subsequently converted en masse to the Protestant Episcopal Church. The church then became known as Zion Protestant Episcopal Church. It was rebuilt after a major fire in 1815 which gutted the church and 35 dwellings in the surrounding Five Points neighborhood. The church was rebuilt thanks to the effort of congregation member Peter Lorillard.[5]

The Episcopal congregation sold the building in 1853 to the Roman Catholic Church of the Immigrants parish, which had been founded in 1827 by the Rev. Felix Varela y Morales to minister to the poor Irish in the Five Points who were predominantly Roman Catholic.[6] The parish later changed its name to the Church of the Transfiguration.

The Transfiguration School building at 29 Mott Street

The church is one of four on the Lower East Side built from Manhattan schist.[4] The AIA Guide to New York City describes it as "[A] Georgian church with Gothic (small-paned double-hung) windows ... with Gothic tracery ... Dressed Manhattan schist makes neat building blocks, with brownstone detail."[7] A copper-covered octagonal tower designed by Henry Engelbert was added to the church building in 1868,[6][7] when the Gothic windows are assumed to have been added as well.[4]

The church was designated a New York City landmark in 1966, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.


By the 1840s, many new European immigrants had arrived in the area served by the church, which became known as the "Five Points". Many of the earlier Protestant residents moved to northern parts of the city, which prompted the church being sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of New York.[8] Over the years it has continued to serve the Irish, Italian and more recently Chinese immigrant communities.[9]

Today, this parish serves an almost entirely Chinese congregation. It offers Sunday masses in English, Cantonese and Mandarin, and has a Catholic School open to all religions. The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers who staff the parish belong to an order that has historical roots in overseas missions to China in particular and the entire world in general. Because the Maryknoll Order is dedicated to overseas mission, this Chinese Roman Catholic Parish has the unique designation as the only parish that is entirely staffed by Maryknollers.[10] Among is pastors was Bishop John W. Comber, M.M. (1967-1969), a Maryknoll Missionary who had served in Fushun.[11]

Transfiguration School[edit]

Transfiguration School is the Catholic parochial school linked to the Church of the Transfiguration. It was founded in 1832 by Varela and became open to children of all faiths in 1969.[6]

The school has high academic standards and won the National Blue Ribbon Schools Award in 2011. Focusing on expansion, the school has launched a five-year campaign that will end in 2016. By that time, there will be a student body of 700 across three campuses. The campuses are the Early Childhood Campus, Transfiguration Lower School, and Transfiguration Upper School. Transfiguration Lower School is the school connected to the Church of the Transfiguration. Transfiguration Upper School's current campus was St. James Elementary School's former campus, where New York State governor Al Smith received his only education.[12]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. ^ "Church of the Transfiguration" on the New York in Photos website. Accessed January 25, 2008
  3. ^ The World Almanac 1892 and Book of Facts (New York: Press Publishing, 1892), p.390.
  4. ^ a b c New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Dolkart, Andrew S.; Postal, Matthew A. (2009). Postal, Matthew A. (ed.). Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1., p.45
  5. ^ "The 1801 Catholic Church of the Transfiguration – 25 Mott Street" from Daytonian in Manhattan (February 18, 2011)
  6. ^ a b c 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.275
  7. ^ a b White, Norval & Willensky, Elliot (2000). AIA Guide to New York City (4th ed.). New York: Three Rivers Press. ISBN 978-0-8129-3107-5., p. 82
  8. ^ Remigius Lafort, S.T.D., Censor, 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.378.
  9. ^ "Parish history", Transfiguration parish website
  10. ^ Maryknoll website
  11. ^ "Bishop John W. Comber, MM". Maryknoll Mission Archives. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-02-12.
  12. ^ Transfiguration School website

External links[edit]