A Guide to St. Patrick's Cathedral

Christina Parrella


St. Patrick's Cathedral holds its own among Midtown's tall buildings and historic architecture, its twin spires jutting 330 feet up toward the heavens. Fresh off a $177 million restoration—which cleaned those spires as well as the heavy bronze doors, ceiling, stained glass and enormous pipe organ—the Neo-Gothic church is among NYC’s most-visited religious sites; in fact, it's among the City’s most-visited attractions period, welcoming an estimated 5 million people every year.  You can join them yourself—whether to attend one of the daily masses (there’s seating for more than 2,000 worshipers) or to just to look around.

Spanning the length of an entire City block, the building itself is made of brick but entirely overlaid in marble. There’s much to see once you pass through the bronze doors and stand under the vaulted ceiling, including a giant organ with 7,855 pipes (there's a smaller one too), a bevy of stained-glass windows, more than 20 altars—two of which were designed by Tiffany & Co.—and a marble Stations of the Cross, which won recognition at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.  

Read on for an overview of the church's history and secrets, and how to plan your visit.

Dedicated in 1879, St. Patrick's was built to replace the City’s second Roman Catholic site of worship, St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral on Mulberry Street, which could no longer accommodate the growing Catholic population (St. Peter’s, in the Financial District, was the first). Designed by James Renwick, Jr.—who had already completed the similarly twin-towered Calvary Church and downtown’s Grace Church—and named for the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick's was modeled after the Gothic churches of England and took 21 years to complete. 

Cathedral Facts 
• There are 3,700 stained-glass panels in the cathedral, including those in the 26-foot-wide Rose Window above the entrance.
• The cathedral's replica of Michelangelo's Pietà is three times larger than the original sculpture in St. Peter's Basilica.
• The 9,000-pound bronze doors at the main entrance were designed to be opened using one hand.  
• Cardinals Edward Egan and John O'Connor are among those entombed in a crypt beneath the main altar. Also there: former slave, hairdresser and humanitarian Pierre Toussaint, the first non-ordained person interred in the crypt; his remains were moved from Old St Patrick's Cathedral at Cardinal O'Connor's behest.
• The main altar's baldachin, or canopy, is made from solid bronze and is nearly 60 feet tall.
• Babe Ruth, Andy Warhol and Robert F. Kennedy had memorial masses here.
• The current whereabouts of the hand-cut cornerstone laid in 1858 are unknown

Fifth Avenue (between E. 50th and 51st Streets)
New York, NY 10022  

How to get there  
The most convenient subway stops are at 5th Ave./53rd St. on the E, M lines; 51st St. on the 6 train; or the busy 47-50th Sts./Rockefeller Center station on the B, D, F and M.

Daily 6:30am–8:45pm. Between three and eight masses are held daily; find mass and confession times here.

You can explore St. Patrick's Cathedral on your own, on a regularly scheduled guided tour or, for a group, you can email the director of tours to make arrangements.


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