Probably the biggest building or structure I have ever had the opportunity to walk into (and sit inside for 3 hours) is Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Officially called the Cathedral Church of Saint John: The Great Divine in the City and Diocese of New York, it is tied with Liverpool Cathedral for the title of largest Anglican church and cathedral. And yes, it is jaw-droppingly massive.
Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts about the enormousness of so many New York buildings and the absolute failure to capture said enormousness in photos, this cathedral is definitely in that category. However, I feel that you do get a better grasp than other places like Carnegie Hall (coming up in a future post).
Just look at those columns. And the stained glass. Anywho, the reason I was there was to watch Paul Winter’s 35th Annual Winter Solstice Celebration. It was an eclectic mix of singing and dancing, featuring artists like Danny Rivera (“the national voice of Puerto Rico”), Theresa Thomason, and dancers and drummers from the Forces of Nature Dance Theatre. The show also featured a humongous sun gong that ascended 12 stories, a giant globe that was eventually suspended, and a “tree of sounds”.
Now, back to the cathedral. Construction began in 1892 and was originally meant to be of Romanesque Revival style, but then changed to a Gothic Revival style in 1909. It sits in the Morningside Heights neighbourhood (right above the Upper West Side, to the west of Harlem), and to this day, the cathedral remains unfinished.
As you can see from the photo of the outside, the top left (our left) side has not yet been constructed. Or maybe will never be constructed. The big circle you see in the middle of the front of the cathedral is the Rose Window, and is the largest rose window in the US, comprised of 10,000 pieces of glass.
As you can probably tell from the photo of the outside of the cathedral, I had a tough time trying to fit the whole thing in the frame of the shot. That’s how big it is.
The two sets of big bronze doors you see above are the great west doors, although they were initially called the “Golden Doors” when they were first unveiled. A designer by the name of Henry Wilson made them, and these were one of only four sets of bronze doors he made in his lifetime.
Above is one of the biggest pieces of sculpture ever displayed in the US, called Phoenix, by a Chinese artist named Xu Bing. To give you a bit of perspective, each phoenix (there are 2 of them) is about 100ft long, and they took up about half of the cathedral. Not even. The cathedral actually spans the length of 601ft. Wowza!
The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is truly an extraordinary place. It’s one of those places where if you feel scared (or some other similar emotion), you can go in there and feel totally safe because of its sheer size. I’m very thankful that finally, on my 4th visit to New York, I was able to witness the grandeur and splendour of this magnificent cathedral.