Great Churches of the World: St. Patrick’s Cathedral

st patricks cathedral

Because stained glass is one of the oldest forms of art, its exact origin is somewhat uncertain. Many people believe that the Ancient Egyptians were responsible for making the first colored glass beads, but it was the Romans that popularized the art back in the first century AD. Though the history of stained glass is somewhat mysterious, there’s no denying that its prominence can most widely be accounted for is its presence in religious sites throughout the world. Many of these windows are so intricate in their design and detail that their near flawlessness is considered by many in the art world to be a miracle.

But there is more to religious stained glass than its staggering beauty. The religious stained glass found in churches, temples, cathedrals, and synagogues across the globe has a deep and meaningful history. Both the churches and artists responsible for creating this art have remarkable stories. This is the first article in a series dedicated to sharing the stories of great religious stained glass windows around the world.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a Phenomenal Exhibition of Fine Art and Architecture

The property on which St. Patrick’s Cathedral currently resides was originally purchased in 1810. A college was built on the site which included a fine old house that was fitted with a Chapel of St. Ignatius. After the college closed, the property passed through the hands of a series of owners and grew to include a small monastic community and orphanage.

st patricks cathedral new york
photo credit: Wikipedia user

Finally, in 1853 it became clear that a large church was needed for the area and Archbishop John Joseph Hughes announced his plans to replace the small building with a new cathedral. The construction of the cathedral was completed in 1878 but many renovations were continually added. This included the addition of the cathedral’s spires in 1888 which made it the largest building in New York City and the second tallest in the entire country.

st patricks spires
photo credit: Wikipedia user

Over the course of time, many stained glass windows were constructed for the cathedral. In 1900, a Lady Chapel was added and the designer Paul Vincent Woodroffe created the stained glass windows for this part of the cathedral. Some of the other artists responsible for the stained glass throughout the building include Charles Connick, Henri Ely, Nicholas Warren, and Charles Morgan. Now, there are over 94 stained glass windows in the cathedral.

st patricks cathedral

In 1914, the cathedral was bombed which caused a lot of panic but thankfully not much damage. However, it would seem this was just the beginning of the danger. A second bombing was also attempted in 1915. And in the 1950’s, the cathedral fell under threat again. A letter was received from an anonymous entity that threatened to bomb the church during Sunday mass. Five more threats were received after this incident, one of which included a phone call made by an unknown person who stated, “Your beautiful cathedral will be blown up before midnight.”

st patricks cathedral historic church

However, even after all of this, the cathedral still stands today and is used regularly for religious practice. The original building has been renovated extensively to ensure its preservation. In the late 1970’s, the exterior and structural assets of the building were restored for the Cathedral’s 100th anniversary. In the early 2000’s, many of the stained glass windows were cleaned and restored. And in 2012, the cathedral was again generously restored to prepare for the visit of Pope Francis. Many religious members, art connoisseurs, and tourists from around the world visit the St. Patrick’s Cathedral to get a glimpse of the incredible architecture and artwork in this historical monument.

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