St. Patrick's Cathedral (Manhattan)

St. Patrick's Cathedral
View of the cathedral from Fifth Avenue
Location Midtown Manhattan,
New York City, New York
Country United States
Denomination Roman Catholic
Tradition Latin Rite
Website St. Patrick's Cathedral
Dedication Saint Patrick
Dedicated October 5, 1910
Earlier dedication May 29, 1879
Status Cathedral
Functional status Active
Architect(s) James Renwick Jr.
Style Decorated Neo-Gothic
Length 396.7 feet (120.9 m)
Number of spires 2
Spire height 329.5 feet (100.4 m) [1]
Materials Tuckahoe marble
Bells 19 (29,122.73 lbs)
Archdiocese Archdiocese of New York
Archbishop Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan
Rector Rev. Msgr. Robert T. Ritchie
Director of music Dr. Jennifer Pascual
Organist(s) Daniel Brondel
Michael Hey
RCIA coordinator Sueanne Nilsen
St. Patrick's Cathedral Complex
St. Patrick's Cathedral (Manhattan) is located in New York City
St. Patrick's Cathedral (Manhattan)
Location of St. Patrick's Cathedral
St. Patrick's Cathedral (Manhattan) is located in New York
St. Patrick's Cathedral (Manhattan)
St. Patrick's Cathedral (Manhattan) (New York)
St. Patrick's Cathedral (Manhattan) is located in the US
St. Patrick's Cathedral (Manhattan)
St. Patrick's Cathedral (Manhattan) (the US)
Coordinates 40°45′31″N 73°58′35″W / 40°45′31″N 73°58′35″W / 40.75861; -73.97639
Area 2 acres (0.81 ha)
Built 1878
NRHP reference # 76001250
Significant dates
Added to NRHP December 8, 1976 [3]
Designated NHL December 8, 1976 [4]
Designated NYCL October 19, 1966 [2]

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, directly across the street from Rockefeller Center, facing the Atlas statue. It is considered one of the most visible symbols of Roman Catholicism in New York City and the United States.


Purchase of the property

The land on which the present cathedral sits was purchased in 1810. [5] [6] The Jesuit community built a college on the site, [7] three miles north of the city. It contained a "fine old house" which was fitted with a chapel of St. Ignatius. [8] 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. [9]

Bishop DuBois reopened the chapel in 1840 for Catholics employed at the Deaf and Dumb Asylum and in the general neighborhood. [8] 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. [8] The stress is said to have contributed to the death that year of the church's pastor, the Rev. Felix Larkin. [8] 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. [8] 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. [8] 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. [8] "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." [8] 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. [8]

Construction of the cathedral

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 Lower 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. [10]

Work began 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 in 1880, both by James Renwick Jr., and an adjacent school (no longer in existence) opened in 1882. [11] The spires were added in 1888, and at 329 feet and 6 inches (100.4 meters) were the tallest structures in New York City and the second highest in the United States. [1] An addition on the east, including a Lady chapel, designed by Charles T. Matthews, was constructed from 1901 to 1906. [11] The Lady Chapel's stained-glass windows were made between 1912 and 1930 by English stained glass artist and designer Paul Vincent Woodroffe. [12] In 1927 and 1931, the cathedral was renovated, which included enlarging the sanctuary and installing the great organ. [13] The cathedral and associated buildings were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976. [5] [14] [15]


An extensive restoration of the cathedral was begun in 2012 and lasted 3 years at a cost of $177 million. [16] The restoration was completed by September 17, 2015, before Pope Francis visited the cathedral on September 24 and 25, 2015. [17] The restoration cleaned the exterior marble, repaired stained glass windows, and painted the ceiling, repaired the flooring and steps, among many restorations. [18]


On October 13, 1914, a bomb exploded on the Northwest corner of St. Patrick's Cathedral. It caused a panic, but not severe damage, splintering some and tearing an 18-inch hole in the floor. Despite a full church that day, there was only one victim – a young boy – whose head was grazed by a flying piece of metal. Authorities believed this event was linked to another bombing earlier that day, downtown at St. Alphonsus Church on West Broadway. [19] The Communists reportedly celebrated bombings at this and other churches, while police suspected an Industrial Workers of the World plot. [20] There were no arrests made that day.

In March 1915, Italian anarchists, Frank Abarno, and Carmine Carbone were arrested for attempting to detonate a bomb in the cathedral. Arbarno and Carbone were under the influence of Luigi Galleani. Abarno was in St. Patrick's ready to light the bomb fuse when Amedeo Polignani, a New York City police detective, who had gone undercover to infiltrate the group, intervened. Polignani had been operating under the direction of the head of the bomb squad, Thomas Tunney. Arbano was arrested at the scene and Carbone was arrested at his home. The two defendants claimed entrapment, but were nonetheless convicted and given sentences of between 6 and 12 years. [21] [22] [23]

In the 1950s, starting in January 1951, a letter threatened that a bomb would be set off at a Sunday mass, and there would be five more threats between December 1951 and July 1952. On July 12, a voice over the telephone warned "your beautiful cathedral will be blown up before midnight." [24]

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