The largest Neo-Gothic Roman Catholic Cathedral in America, St. Patrick’s, sits on 5th Avenue, directly across from Rockefeller’s Atlas statue. Filling one city block and able to accommodate 3000 people, St. Patrick’s is the seat of the Archdiocese of New York.
The land on which the Cathedral is built was originally bought in 1810 by the Jesuits, who built a college on the site, along with a chapel dedicated to St. Ignatius (founder of the Jesuit order). Four years later, the college closed and the property was sold to the diocese ( which had designed plans for a cemetery on the site, along with a “modest” framed parish church dedicated to St. John the Evangelist). Unfortunately, increasing financial problems forced these plans to be abandoned. The property was then sold at auction in 1844. An old college hall became a temporary church while fund-raising efforts were developed to buy back the property. The debt was finally paid off in 1853. Since the congregation was growing rapidly, the need for a larger church was seen, specifically a Cathedral to replace an older St. Patrick’s in lower Manhattan. At that time, the property, in what is now known as mid-town, was three miles north of the populated area of New York City. Construction of the new Cathedral began in 1858, but was put on hold during the American Civil War. Resuming in 1865, construction was completed in 1878. An archbishop’s house and a rectory were added in 1880. In 1882, a school was added (but this no longer exists). The 329 foot six inch spires were added in 1888, making the Cathedral the tallest structure in New York at the time, and the second tallest in North America. [Having grown up in the Boston area, we were pleased to learn of a connection with St. Patrick’s; i.e. marble quarried in Massachusetts and stained glass panels used in the windows, both came from Boston; in addition, Boston-born Robert Kennedy’s wake and funeral were held in this Cathedral].
In the crypt under the main altar are the remains of nine former cardinals, as well as that of television personality, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. Beginning in 2012, a three year extensive renovation project was undertaken.
This largest Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States, which was named after the patron saint of Ireland because of the increasing numbers of Irish immigrants in the city, has 21 altars and 19 bells ( each of which is named after a different saint). St. Patrick’s hosts 18 worship services per day and up to 150 weddings per year. It has been featured n numerous films and novels. Visited by nearly five million people per year, St. Patrick’s was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015. This was truly an interesting church to visit.