Masterpieces of Light and Space: St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York, New York, USA

St. Patrick's Cathedral

My first visit to New York was cold, very cold. I was there with my then-girlfriend (now wife) visiting her sister before we moved to Korea for a couple of years, in the middle of the winter, and our visit was bookended with major snowstorms making the streets a slushy, soggy, mess. If I remember the order of events right, we spent the morning at the MoMA, then walked back through mid-Town in the cold on our way to Koreatown for dinner. Frozen, tired, and in need of a respite, we ducked into St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a warm-up and sightseeing break. I was pretty certain at the time that this church was featured in Home Alone, maybe Home Alone 2, but in retrospect I think I was wrong about that.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

I remember that it was warm inside. There was a little music going, and it was very green. I guess that makes sense for St. Patrick. Anywho, I definitely remember it being beautiful and ornate, even more ornate than St. John’s, if a bit darker on the inside.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

When we lived in New York I visited St. Patrick’s again briefly, but it was totes under renovation and I don’t think I even took any pictures because it was all scaffolding everywhere. I would certainly love to go back and check it out again the next time we’re in New York, though.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

I just realized, when I took all of these pictures it was after sunset, in the middle of the winter, no wonder the church seemed dark inside.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

The Chancel was spectacular, though.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Something about the cloisters of cathedrals really piques my curiosity. I’d probably be disappointed to go on an exploratory expedition in one to find nothing but offices and broom closets, but I imagine there are all sorts of holy relics hidden in them.

So yeah, St. Patrick’s is big and beautiful, right in midtown Manhattan ready for you to walk in and snap a photo or two. If you visit St. Patrick’s though out of church hopping interest and not just because it’s close to Rockefeller Center and on your tourist map, you must head up to 110th and Cathedral Parkway to see the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, too. It’s worth the trip.

Masterpieces of Light and Space: Cathedral of the Holy Cross and St. Eulalia, Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, SpainCathedral of the Holy Cross and St. Eulalia, from just down the street

The first truly Gothic cathedral we ever visited was the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and St. Eulalia, in Barcelona, Spain. Throughout the rest of this post I’m going to refer to it simply as Barcelona Cathedral. It’s named after Eulalia, a woman of Barcelona who was stripped naked in a public square during Roman times, and when a miraculous snow fell to cover her junk, the put her in a barrel, stabbed it with knives, and rolled her down a hill. Pretty graphic stuff.

Barcelona, Spain
Front door of Barcelona Cathedral

I was really amazed at the contrast between Barcelona Cathedral and the nearby La Sagrada Familia, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been. One was completed in 1448, the other is still under construction. The sharp spires and dark interior of Barcelona Cathedral were essentially the opposite of what you can find a few blocks away. Then again, this city has literally been on the map for thousands of years, so you probably should see some striking differences in architectural design and technique.

Barcelona, Spain
It looks a bit bigger on the inside

We didn’t get to stay inside the cathedral for too long, as people were queuing up for mass and they were kicking the tourists out. We had too much to see throughout the gothic district to spend an hour watching mass, but we totally thought about it.

Barcelona, Spain
I’m guessing architectural limitations at the time of construction are responsible for the relatively small cupola

Barcelona Cathedral was a bit musty on the inside, but that could have been incense, I guess. We made a quick tour of the perimeter before their ushers showed us the door. Wait, that makes us sound rude. The ushers showed probably a couple of hundred people to the door so they could start mass in peace.

Barcelona, Spain Stained glass filtering out the brightest rays of the light

Barcelona, Spain Chancel and stained glass of Barcelona Cathedral

I really enjoyed the art style of this cathedral as it had a very “quest for the holy grail” type feel, which I guess makes sense. Apparently the choir stalls feature the coat-of-arms of the Knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

Barcelona, Spain Wikipedia tells me that this photo I took is of the Chapel of St. Olegarius, and that the cross was carried at the Battle of Lepanto

The side chapels at Barcelona Cathedral contain effigies or maybe sarcophagi of St. Eulalia and St. Olegarius. I’ve mentioned it repeatedly in these posts, but I really do get a little thrill from having historical figures, even if I’ve never heard of them, being, uh…present. I’m not sure exactly what it is that gets my excitement going about it, but it might just be the fact that in the U.S. there is very little that is ancient and intact, but in other places even the ancient people are on display. I dunno.

Barcelona, Spain
These chandeliers make me think of Beowulf

The whole look and feel of this Cathedral is appropriately medieval. As much as I would have enjoyed to explore a bit more, it would have been rude to just pretend not to understand that mass was about to begin and stick around. So we headed out to the cloisters.

Barcelona, SpainThe cloisters look like Dorne from Game of Thrones, heh.

The cloisters couldn’t look any more Iberian. It basically summed up the Spanish vibe in one enclosed area for me. Except for the geese. I really dislike geese, they’re rude, loud, and unfriendly. Those words don’t describe the parts of Spain I’ve visited in the least.

At any rate, Barcelona Cathedral was an amazing and old example of Gothic architecture to visit, and I’m so very glad I’ve been there.