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 Church of St. John the Divine, New York, New York, USA

St. John the Divine Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Rose Window Exterior

In 2011 my life was about to take a severe jag out into left field. Until just a couple of years prior, I didn’t think that I would ever find a mate, or ever have the kind of financial situation that would allow me to travel around the world much. Hell, I could barely afford to watch Anthony Bourdain travel on TV (seriously America, why is cable and internet so expensive here?). mommyPrimate and I had just been accepted into the English Program in Korea and were on an epic road trip across North America visiting with friends and family before heading into the great unknown of life abroad. Her sister lives in New York, New York, and we were in town for a visit.

St. John the Divine
Rose Window Interior, Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine

It was cold, and I was intimidated by the city in general. mommyPrimate suggested as we get out of the house that we check out the Cathedral because she remembered it being pretty cool. We walked the 5 or 7 blocks or so up to 110th and Cathedral Parkway and went inside. I was blown away by the size of the place, the stained glass, and very welcoming atmosphere.

Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine View of the Nave from way up high

Fast forward a couple of years. mommyPrimate and I had just become mrandmrsPrimate and moved to New York. Not having a ton of money, the Cathedral was kinda a great place to hang out in the heat of the summer, and it’s a quiet place in a city that is anything but quiet. Being quite modern, St. John’s is an easy place for more secular people to visit, too…and then came the tours.

Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
The stained glass at St. John’s is thematic,reflecting on professions of NYC and their ancient roots. This panel depicts Hippocrates, with biblical figures who followed a similar path in the panels below

We took a symbology tour where they led us around the massive building looking at all of the subtle details and explaining their biblical references. It was also pretty enlightening to find out where all of the art and furnishings came from (all over Europe, all over the timeline, and so on).

Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine St. John’s was built for occupants at all levels, not just humans. Even the upper reaches of the Cathedral are stunningly beautiful.

A couple of weeks later we found ourselves on the “vertical tour” of the Cathedral. A trip up into the dizzying heights of the church where I constantly felt as if I was going to barf. Heights are not my thing. The architecture and design of the loftiest places in the church were showcased in a great way, though, and I’m very happy to have experienced it, much the same way as I am happy to have climbed to the cupola of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, and don’t mind the idea of never, ever, being up that high again with such small railings.

Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
If you can’t imagine a Cherub flying through here, you don’t have much imagination.

New York is a great city for church hopping, and the ability to walk from amazing site to amazing site on a whim is something I much miss about life in New York. Now I must end this post, as babyPrimate is waking up and will require my full attention.