Cathedral of St. John The Divine

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine 1047 Amsterdam Avenue

Seven Overlooked Wonders of New York/Cathedral of St. John The Divine
Museum of the City of New York
Written By Museum of the City of New York

The Museum of the City of New York celebrates and interprets the city, educating the public about its distinctive character, especially its heritage of diversity, opportunity, and perpetual transformation.

design and construction

Located atop a plateau in Upper Manhattan, St. John the Divine is the largest Anglican cathedral in the world, and it rivals the famous European cathedrals in size, breathtaking beauty, and architectural details.

In 1891, there was a competition to design the building that was won by the firm of George Heins and Christopher Grant Lafarge. Their eclectic design was a combination of Romanesque, Byzantine and Gothic elements,but there was been sweeping changes in style since construction began in 1892. First excavation was much tougher than expected. Then Heins died in and some members of the church decided they no longer wanted the Byzantine-Romanesque style and a new rchitect was hired to completed the cathedral in Gothic style.Though excavation began in 1892, construction was not completed until Progress was held up over the years by lack of funds, the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 which led to World War II and other setbacks. Technically it is still unfinished, however, It is not uncommon for the construction of a cathedral of its size and stature to be extended over many decades.

It has undergone radical changes in style since its construction began in 1892

The cornerstone was laid December 27, 1892, but unexpectedly, massive excavation was required before bedrock was hit. Heins & LaFarge completed the east end and the crossing, temporarily roofed by Rafael Guastavino with a tiled dome (still standing). The Chapel of St. Columba was consecrated in 1911, but the death of Heins ended the contract with Heins & LaFarge. Some of the Cathedral trustees did not care for the original Romaneque-Byzantine design, preferring something more purely Gothic, and consequently they removed the project from LaFarge, the surviving architect of the team.[2] The hired a new architect Ralph Adams Cram, whose nave and west front would be continued in French Gothic style.

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notable people memorialized at the cathedral

Some notable people whose funeral or memorial service took place there include jazz legend Duke Ellington in 1974, choreographer Alvin Ailey in 1989, and "Sesame Street" creator Jim Henson in 1990, whose service was attended by Big Bird and the Muppets. In times of despair, the church has long served as a meeting ground for both locals and travelers from around the world. On the day of the September 11 terror attacks in 2001, hundreds of people spontaneously gathered there to pray and share support. The cathedral continues to be a place where both locals and visitors are welcomed to gather, celebrate, mourn, and share experiences they may not have anywhere else.

gathering place

The cathedral has a rich and diverse cultural and social history. Each year, the first Sunday in October, it holds the annual Feast of Saint Francis that includes a procession and blessing of live animals. It has hosted a Sting concert, art exhibitions, and conversations with international notables promoting social consciousness. Other social initiatives include a soup kitchen, an overnight shelter, and more.

Cover Photo Credit: Kripa Chettiar via Flickr

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