St. Patrick’s Cathedral

The Saint Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral, located in Midtown Manhattan on Fifth Avenue and 50th St, is a place every person in New York should visit.  Since its formal establishment, which dates back to May 25, 1879, this cathedral has been a place of security to many people of New York City.  Saint Patrick’s Cathedral was built to replace the Old Saint Patrick Church located in Downtown, Mulberry Street.  Originally, in the mid 1800s Italians were immigrating to New York City and settling in Mulberry Street.  Majority of these Italians were of the Catholic faith.  With a vast number of Catholics in need of a bigger house of worship, a bigger and better Church was built.

Saint Patrick's Cathedral

Saint Patrick's Cathedral

Immigrants coming to the United States are scared, nervous, and have no idea what their new form of lives will be like. Most of them turned to god for assistance and guidance. Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is iconic in the sense that many immigrants relied on it for shelter, warmth, a chance to meet new people, and hope. And, the architecture of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral pays tribute to the hard work of its immigrant adherents, both past and present. Its bronze doors pays tribute to its Catholic immigrant forebearers such as St. Issac Jogues, the first priest of New York; St. Frances X Cabrini, Mother of the Immigrant; and Mother Elizabeth Seton, daughter of New York.

Bronze doors with tributes engraved

Individual Responses

Visiting Saint Patrick’s Cathedral was not simply a class assignment. But, it was a perfect opportunity to explore one of New York City’s finest landmarks. When I first saw the Cathedral in person I was in awe. Both the length and the height of the church were in great proportions. The length of the church constitutes that of an entire Manhattan city block. When visiting this place, I noticed the many different ethnic backgrounds interested in this building. Asians, Europeans, and Africans all under the same roof. I noticed some of the people inside were praying, studying the church’s qualities, or simply sitting down with their loved ones. People would whisper not shout, others would have their eyes closed almost as if they are asleep. Inside I felt a sense of tranquility because everyone seemed to be in that state. What this cathedral symbolizes to me is a place where many different people can come to and, be considered the same. It can also be viewed as a place of refuge or safety from troubles. One may come here to settle down or seek help when he or she is facing difficult hardships in their life. I am very satisfied with my visit to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Not only did I learn more about another faith but I also experienced a gathering of many different people.

Doors of Saint Patrick's Cathedral

– Jamilur Reja

When visiting the cathedral, I tried my best to make sure I paid attention to every little detail.  I saw the giant, strong and grand doors that we must get through in order to get into the cathedral.  I also saw the beautiful stained glass windows that were found all over the inside of the cathedral. I saw the beautiful alter in the middle of the church, as well as the smaller chapel in the back of the church, where I found out that most masses take place at the cathedral.  All around the perimeter of the inside of the church there are various little shrine/alters dedicated to various Saints.  Some of the Saints that you could see are Saint Andrew, Saint Elizabeth, and Saint Jean Baptiste de la Salle.  These haven’t always been there, and though they have been part of the cathedral for a while, they haven’t been restored until recently.  The section dedicated to The Virgin of Guadalupe was exquisite, and from the amount of visitors in that section, I could tell that her section in the cathedral was highly valued by the public.

Though Saint Patrick is a traditional Irish saint, it was wonderful to see that this cathedral was able to take traditional saints and virgins that are traditionally worshiped and praised in other parts of the world and incorporate it into this grand cathedral.  Saint Patrick is definitely world known, and it is wonderful that Catholics and non-Catholics from all over the world, tourists or immigrants, the young or the old, can come to this cathedral and feel that they are part of a community because of all that Saint Patrick’s cathedral incorporates into their structure.  Any visitor can donate money to the church to maintain it, to restore it, to help the poor, and to help out other charities while lighting a candle at various sections of the cathedral.  There is even a ramp to make certain parts of the cathedral easily accessible to those individuals who are handicapped, or who may be on wheelchairs.  The church keeps getting renovated, gaining valuable additions of alters dedicated to saints, as well as other physical additions that help with the changing times, such as the ramp and the gift shop stands.  The cathedral notices how much of an icon it has become to people all over the world when thinking of Catholics in New York City, and with the gift shop they are able to raise money as well as give people some religious items with which they could remember their time at this wondrous cathedral.

Everything in the cathedral seemed to go perfectly with its surroundings, so it was hard for me to believe that everything that is in there hasn’t always been in there.  The Lady Chapel was completed in 1906, and the organs weren’t installed until 1929.  Small things like this make a huge difference in the visual environment as well as the general atmosphere of the church.  The ramp itself has made the cathedral much more easily accessible for those individuals who could only travel upwards by the use of ramps.  The cathedral is very old, but has been able to maintain its beauty through wonderful renovations that have kept it looking as beautiful as ever.  Hundreds of people were at the cathedral when I went, and all were aware of its grandeur and intricate beauty that it possessed.  Many visitors, all coming to see this spectacle of a building, were photographing and videotaping its unique architecture.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral was definitely wonderful to look at, both inside, and out.  It has something for everyone – the catholic, the non-catholic, the NYC resident, and the NYC visitor.  Anyone can come and have a unique, but breathtaking experience in the cathedral, and never forget how when they first walked in, the first thing that came into their mind was “Wow”.

Marcela Villa

I am the type of person who would repeatedly re-watch a movie to see things that I didn’t see before. In the same sense, after visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I intended to see my faith from a new, fresh perspective, and reveal things that I have not seen. In the end, I realized that the many things that have happened within the short period between now and when I graduated high school had a resoundingly cumulative effect on how I view religion.

Before high school, I never really put my faith under inquiry— you can say that I had too much faith in my faith. Maybe I was so unassuming because I was shielded from the flaws within the religion and I was incapable (due to my still-burgeoning mind) to think critically about such an abstract matter. As I progressed through high school, I was not only exposed to the flaws but also to the tools to analyze them for myself.

Although I say flaws, I did find aspects of Catholicism to be quite admirable. The way that priests and the various people who commit themselves to the Catholic vocation, especially of the Salesian order, cared about children and the poor. I was truly moved at this aspect after I took the opportunity to present toys that DBP collected for our Christmas toy drive to a grade school in Patterson, NJ. Looking back at the culmination of all my interactions with these same priests (four of which were my teachers), I have to say that I was impressed at the joie de vivre that these priests embarked. Truly, their impression on me makes it difficult to believe that any of these priests were capable of something as terrible as a sex scandal.

But, in spite of these redeeming qualities, I feel that there are fundamental flaws within the Catholic, which have distanced me from Catholicism over the last four years. The most major one is the Vatican’s distance from its community, which has led the community astray. It has caused a lack of cohesion within its community, which I very much dislike. But, this visit was a welcome introspection in my faith and what it means to me at the present moment. While the details of my assessment are within the captions and photographs of my visit, I have been awed by the beauty, humbled by the reverence, but also been deterred by the loose ends that the Cathedral has purposely suppressed.

~Joenard Camarista

Video by Jamilur Reja, Marcela Villa, and Joenard Camarista