St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Manhattan - History and Facts | History Hit

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Manhattan

Manhattan, New York City, United States

Lily Johnson

08 Feb 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Manhattan

In the heart of Manhattan, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is one of New York’s most beautiful buildings and the largest Catholic church in the city. Since its construction in the 19th century it has served as a beacon of hope and prosperity, representing freedom of worship for many New Yorkers.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral history 

In the 19th century, New York’s Catholic population was steadily growing. A large community of Irish peasants began to amass, fleeing their native land in search of a better life in light of the unraveling Irish Potato Famine and harsh British colonial rule. Such communities often turned to the Church for solace, and a new establishment for Catholic worship was proposed.

In 1809, the cornerstone of New York’s first cathedral was laid, named St. Patrick’s Cathedral in keeping with Ireland’s beloved patron saint. Donations from Irish immigrants and wealthy benefactors alike helped to fund the project, bringing together a new community of Catholics in the city.

By 1853, the construction of a ‘new’ St. Patrick’s Cathedral was proposed, and in 1858 its cornerstone was laid – this incarnation is largely what survives today. Construction continued rapidly until it was forced to a halt by the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, with its completion at last taking place in 1878.

Designed in the Gothic Revival style, its huge size dominated midtown Manhattan. Construction continued on the spires, which when completed in 1888 made the cathedral the tallest building in New York, while work on the Lady Chapel and stained glass windows took place over the next few decades.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral today 

Today St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, and is considered one of the clearest symbols of the Catholic Church in the United States. It holds Mass every day of the week yet is also open for tourists, welcoming over 5 million people per year.

Inside and out, the cathedral provides a stunning example of Neo-Gothic architecture, with ornate stained glass windows, a vast copy of Michelangelo’s Pieta (three-times larger than the original!), and stunning bronze doors decorated with relief sculptures of figures significant to the cathedral. 

Getting to St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is located on 5th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, close to the Rockefeller Center. Its closest subway station is 5 Av/53 St, a 5-minute walk away, and the closest bus stops are 5th Av @ 51st Street and 5th Av @ 50th St, both directly outside.