Today at Saint Patrick’s Church in New York City, Pope Benedict XVI became the third Bishop of Rome to visit the gothic-style Catholic Cathedral, which is also the largest in the United States.
Archbishop John Hughes constructed the cathedral in 1858. When the property of Saint Patrick’s was purchased, it was considered as a country property and was even used as a pasture. Opponents of the project called it, “Hughes Folly.” However, the property’s value later escalated to become one of the most valuable real estate plots in the United States. The American Civil War halted construction on the Cathedral until after the conflict.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral seats about 2,200 people. Mass is regularly celebrated there in almost 30 languages on an almost continual basis. Saint Patrick’s is a significant architectural landmark in New York City, having been designed by the revered American architect James Renwick. The cathedral has many devotional chapels with various images of the Blessed Virgin and Saints their themes. The Lady Chapel is always of particular interest to visitors, another prominent American architect, Charles Matthews, designed it.
When one thinks of New York, the name Tiffany’s comes to mind. The famous jewelry store designed and constructed the altars of Saint Michael and Saint Louis.
With the visit of Pope Benedict XVI today, he follows in the traditions of Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II who both visited the cavernous cathedral. However, Pope Benedict is the first Pope to celebrate the Eucharist at this location.
Beneath the main altar of the Cathedral is the crypt where the Archbishops of New York are buried. Additionally, the Cathedral still has cardinal’s hats called “galeros” (a red hat with tassels) for each Archbishop of New York that has been elevated to the rank of Cardinal hanging from the highest point in the nave of the Cathedral. Galeros are no longer given to cardinals, since they were done away with by Pope Paul VI’s curial reforms in 1968.
Saint Patrick’s is a microcosm of the Catholic history of art and architecture in the United States. The Stations of the Cross in this church were awarded a gold ribbon for artistic merit at the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1893. Moreover, the Cathedral has a reproduction of the Pieta by Michelangelo, although the one in New York is three times larger than the original in Rome.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York is a favorite tourist destination for people from all over the world.