Hi friends, welcome back! In honor of St. Patrick’s Day Friday, I thought it was fitting to share the iconic St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This church is named after the patron saint of Ireland and the seat of the Archdiocese of New York. This gothic cathedral is massive and takes up an entire block between Madison and Fifth Avenue from 50th and 51st Street. The entrance is on Fifth Avenue and it is neighbors with Saks Fifth Avenue and one block from Rockefeller.
My office used to be across Madison Avenue so I would see this cathedral and hear the bells almost every day, but never ventured inside until recently. On Madison Avenue, the structure on the left is the archbishop’s residence, the Lady Chapel is in the middle, and the Rectory is on the right.
Construction on St. Patrick’s began in 1858 after the parish outgrew the original St. Patrick’s on Mulberry Street in Lower Manhattan. At the time of construction, the site (51st and Fifth Avenue) was considered too far outside the city, but now it is in the center of the city that never sleeps. People doubted Archbishop John Hughes and architect James Renwick, but they clearly knew what they were doing.
Construction was interrupted by the Civil War and they also went over budget and ran out of money. A fair was held in 1878 that raised over $178,000 to buy furnishings, and the doors officially opened in 1879.
The spires were added on in 1888 and the church is constantly a work in progress to pass on to future generations. Construction of the Lady Chapel began in 1900 and the stained glass windows were installed over the next twenty five years coming from England, France, and Germany.
I’ve walked this block so many times but I was still surprised by just how large the interior is. It is 332 feet long, a little less than a football field, and can hold over 2,400 people. I loved how peaceful it felt inside, it makes you forget that you’re in the middle of NYC. It reminded me a lot of being inside the Sacre Coeur in Paris.
Along the exterior walls are beautiful chapels carved in white marble for different saints.
The church is currently undergoing a $200 million restoration that is nearing completion. The renovation is the biggest undertaking since the 1970s and included stone repairs and cleaning, replacing stained glass windows, organ overhaul, interior repairs and cleaning, IT upgrades, and a geothermal system to heat/cool the Cathedral. Saint Patrick’s was covered in scaffolding from 2007-2015 while these repairs were being made. Lucky for me this occurred before I moved to the city.
This is a before and after from the St. Patrick’s website of the exterior renovations. The cleaning was worth every penny!
These bronze doors weigh 9,000 pounds each and were restored in 2013. I love how they are left open so you can see the action outside while enjoying the serenity inside.
It’s estimated that five million people a year pay a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It also hosted some historic events such as Babe Ruth, Vince Lombardi, and Robert F. Kennedy’s funerals. Tours are available from 9am – 6pm daily and you can take a group tour for $113 or, a self-guided iPad tour for $27. I watched this YouTube tour beforehand to know what to look for.
I’m glad I finally made it inside this beautiful cathedral. As you can see, it is definitely worth taking a look around and makes for a great spot to take a break from the hustle and bustle on Fifth Avenue.