I adore old churches. During my three weeks in Italy, I spent much of my time going from one cathedral to the next and the photos I took during my vacation are still some of my favorites. With Easter drawing closer, I’ve had churches on my mind a lot. I recently realized that in my excitement to explore as much of NYC as possible I completely overlooked many of its religious sites.
This weekend, I talked my friend Lyssa into doing a church crawl with me (I love crawls of any kind; you see so much this way!). We stayed in Manhattan to keep things as simple as possible, but we had so much fun peeping inside the city’s most beautiful sanctuaries. The following list is just a glimpse at some of Manhattan’s prettiest churches (there are so many more you can see). Whether or not you’re religious, I highly recommend stopping by these beautiful sites to admire the architecture.
St Patrick’s Cathedral (Midtown)
One of the most well known religious sites in NYC, St. Patrick’s is truly breathtaking. This cathedral was opened in 1879 and is built in the Neo-Gothic style (think: lots of pointy arches and beautiful ceilings). You’ll find this cathedral on Fifth Avenue across from Rockefeller Center. St. Patrick’s can get pretty crowded on the weekend, so visit early on weekdays to miss the crowd.
Trinity Church (FiDi)
Trinity Church is my personal favorite church in NYC. Squeezed between skyscrapers in the Financial District, this church is the resting place for notable figures like Alexander Hamilton and Robert Fulton. The current church building is actually the third Trinity Church that was built (the first two were torn down for various reasons), and construction on the building began in 1839.
The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine (UWS)
St. John the Divine is a huge cathedral on the Upper West Side (in fact, it’s the world’s fifth largest Anglican church). Although it’s a bit of a hike to get to the cathedral, the vaulted ceilings and beautiful architecture make the trip more than worth it. Make sure to double check the visiting hours ahead of time, because they’re really strict about when visitors can enter. For a beautiful view of the cathedral, walk to the 111th Street People’s Garden, where you’ll also see its iconic Peace Fountain.
St. Paul’s Chapel (FiDi)
Part of the parish of Trinity Church, St. Paul’s was first opened in 1766 and is the oldest surviving church in Manhattan. St. Paul’s stands across from the World Trade Center site and was a place of refuge for many following 9/11. It’s actually earned the nickname “the little chapel that stood” because it miraculously wasn’t damaged during the terrorist attacks.
St. Bartholomew’s Church (Midtown)
St. Bart’s looks like it was transplanted here from some exotic location in Europe. When I think of old churches, I think spires and pointed archways; but St. Bart’s has none of that. Like most of the churches on this list, St. Bart’s is snuggled between skyscrapers, which makes the church look even more magical.
Marble Collegiate Church (Nomad)
Founded in 1628, Marble Collegiate Church looks exactly like the churches you’d draw as a kid. It has one tall steeple in the front, and a beautiful gold entryway. Surrounding the church is a wrought iron fence that’s often adorned with multicolored ribbons. If you want to see the sanctuary of this lovely church, you’ll have to visit during very specific hours, which are listed on their website. If you get the chance to look inside the sanctuary, definitely check out the Tiffany stained glass windows on the south wall.
Riverside Church (UWS)
You’d never guess from its elaborate steeple that this church isn’t yet a century old. Opened in 1930, Riverside Church is an interdenominational church in Morningside Heights. The sanctuary is absolutely stunning, so definitely try and get inside. I recommend stopping by this church after you’ve explored Columbia University’s campus.
Grace Church (East Village)
Grace Church reminds me so much of the university buildings in Oxford, England. James Renwick Jr. designed this stunning church at the age of 23, and he later went on to design St. Patrick’s Cathedral. One thing I thought was interesting about the interior of the church is that it’s actually made of plaster, although it looks like stone. If you’re a fan of stained glass, you’ll love Grace Church.
I’ll update this list as I discover new churches in the city, but for now this is a great list of places to visit if you’re craving old architecture in the steel and glass city. I wouldn’t recommend visiting on Sundays unless you’re there to attend a service, otherwise you might arrive just as another service is ending or starting.
Tell me: What type of sites are you most interested in visiting in new cities?
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