The secrets of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the unfinished beauty of Morningside Heights

PODCAST The history of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and a tour of its unique artistic treasures

The Bowery Boys have finally made it to one of the most enigmatic and miraculous houses of worship in America – the Cathedral of St John the Divine. This Episcopal cathedral has a story like no other and a collection of eccentric artifacts and allegorical sculpture – both ancient and contemporary – that continues to marvel and confound.

Located in Morningside Heights in Upper Manhattan, St. John the Divine – named for the Apostle and author of the Book of Revelations — is no ordinary cathedral (if such a thing exists). Every corner seems to vibrate on a different frequency from other Christian churches.

Many ideas have gone into creating St. John the Divine’s unique personality – a quirky mix of architectural styles, some outside-the-box ideas about community outreach, its embrace of the unconventional. But one particularly striking detail sets it apart from the rest: the Cathedral remains unfinished.

FEATURING: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Keith Haring, Duke Ellington, Martin Luther King Jr. and the high-wire antics of Philippe Petit

ALSO: Tom and Greg explore the Cathedral — from the crypt to the rooftop – with tour guide Bill Schneberger.

LISTEN HERE:

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A postcard from 1902 with only a gigantic arch built. The nearby campus of Columbia University was only a few years old by this time.

 

A postcard from 1910. Little did they know that it still would not be finished over a century afterwards.

Museum of the City of New York

What the church actually looked like in 1910.

Irving Underhill/Museum of the City of New York

 

New York Public Library

Bringing the columns into the future nave of the church, 1904.

Museum of the City of New York

 

The first services were actually held in the crypt. Note the beautiful Guastavino tiling on the ceiling.

MCNY

Considerably more work has been done by 1934 as shown in this photograph.

NYPL

The western end of the cathedral as seen from the children’s garden at the foot of the REALLY weird Peace Fountain by sculptor Greg Wyatt.

From the western entrance of the church, a collection of curious, strange and even unsettling carvings:

 

Befitting John’s authorship of the Book of Revelations, a grim depiction of the Apocalypse (and carved well before the events of September 11).

The southern archway had yet to be populated with statues.

From its northern side, an excellent view of the diverse styles in their unfinished state.

 

Don’t forget to look and listen for the peacocks which roam the cathedral grounds.

From the triforium, our tour guide Bill Schneberger points out a very bizarre detail, recently revealed. In a sea of flower decorations, one stone carver made the face of a boy. (Video is not great but trust us! It’s there.)

 

This video actually shows the very, very top of the church — the ceiling which is enclosed in a separate space, protected from the elements.

 

The Keith Haring triptych in contrast to the extraordinary patterned stained-glass window.

 

And finally, we’re pleased to announce that we will emceeing a very special event at the Cathedral later this month — a party for its 125th birthday!

More details here and check this website in the coming days for even more information

 

The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine
invites you to
The 37th Annual Spirit of the City Gala
Celebrating 125 years of this historic landmark!
With a special tribute to José V. Torres and his leadership in the Cathedral’s education programs for children
on Wednesday, May 23rd

Dinner & Party Tickets
An exquisite buffet dinner featuring international foods in the chapels followed by drinks and live music at 6 pm

$1000 Regents Ticket
Includes annual membership in the Cathedral’s Society of Regents, invitations to Cathedral events, and recognition in the evening’s program.

$500 Supporting Ticket
Includes recognition in the evening’s program and invitations to Cathedral events.

After-Party Tickets
Featuring signature cocktails by Highland Park Whiskey along with beer, wine, and desserts and a performance by The Duke Ellington Legacy Band followed by a DJ

Doors open at 7:30 pm
$150 after April 30th

To reserve your ticket online, please click here.

Those who support the Bowery Boys on Patreon will receive a discount code later next week, so check your messages!

Proceeds from the evening benefit the Cathedral.

For information on underwriting opportunities and to purchase advance tickets, please contact the Cathedral’s Development Department at spiritofthecity@stjohndivine.org or call 212-316-7498 or 212-316-7488