St. Patrick's Old Cathedral, New York

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St. Patrick's Old Cathedral, New York

The Basilica of Saint Patrick's Old Cathedral, or Old St. Patrick's, is located at 260-264 Mulberry Street between Prince and Houston Streets in the Nolita neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, with the primary entrance currently located on Mott Street. Built between 1809 and 1815, and designed by Joseph-François Mangin in the Gothic Revival style, it was the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York until the current Saint Patrick's Cathedral opened in 1879. Liturgies are celebrated in English and Spanish.

The church was designated a New York City landmark in 1966, and the cathedral complex was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. It was declared a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI on March 17, 2010.

History

The first Roman Catholic church in New York City was St. Peter's on Barclay Street, the cornerstone of which was laid in 1785. By the early 19th Century, the Jesuit rector of the church, Father Kohlmann, realized that the city's growing Catholic population needed a second sanctuary, and, since the city had been made a see in 1808, a cathedral for the first bishop. The site he selected for the new church was being used a cemetery for St. Peter's, and was well outside the settled area of the city, surrounded by farmland and the country houses of the rich. The architect chosen was Joseph-Francois Mangin, who had co-designed New York's City Hall with John McComb, Jr. construction on which was ongoing when the cornerstone of St. Patrick's was laid on June 8, 1809. Construction took just under five years, with the sanctuary being dedicated on May 14, 1815. In that same year, John Connally, an Irish Dominican, arrived to take office as the city's first bishop. The church, which was the largest in the city at the time it was built, measures 120 by 80 feet and the inner vault is 85 feet high.

Until 1830, the Cathedral was the ending place of the annual St. Patrick's Day parade. After that, it ended on Ann Street at the Church of the Transfiguration, whose pastor, Father Varela, was Cuban, but was a fervent nationalist and the chaplin of the Hibernian Universal Benevolent Society. Eventually, the parade moved uptown to pass in front of the new St. Patrick's Cathedral.

In 1836, the cathedral was the subject of an attempted sack after tensions between Irish Catholics and anti-Catholic Know-Nothing nativists led to a number of riots and other physical confrontations. The situation worsened when a brain-injured young woman wrote a book telling her "true" story – a Protestant girl who converted to Catholicism, and was then forced by nuns to have sex with priests, with the resulting children being baptized then killed horribly. Despite the book being debunked by a mildly anti-Catholic magazine editor, nativist anger at the story resulted in a decision to attack the cathedral.Loopholes were cut in the church's outer walls, which had just recently been built, and the building was defended from the rioters with muskets. Afterwards, the Ancient Order of Hibernians established its headquarters across the street from the church. Thirty years later, in 1866, the structure was gutted by fire, and even though the new St. Patrick's was already under construction, the old cathedral was restored under the direction of architect Henry Engelbert and reopened in 1868.

Since 1879, St. Patrick's Old Cathedral has been a parish church, the pastor residing in the old Bishop's House at 263 Mulberry Street. Today's multi-ethnic parish also formerly included Most Holy Crucifix Church, which now is the San Lorenzo Ruiz Chapel and houses the Filipino Catholic Apostolate for the Archdiocese of New York.

Cathedral complex
  • St. Patrick's Old Cathedral School at 32 Prince Street between Mulberry and Mott Streets, across Prince Street from the Cathedral, predates the church itself. It was built in 1825-26 as the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum, operated by the Sisters of Charity. In 1851, the asylum became for girls only, and in 1886 became a girls' school, St. Patrick's Convent and Girl's School. The Federal-style building is a New York City landmark, designated in 1966.
  • In 1859, a "Gingerbread Gothic"Chancery Office Building was built at 266 Mulberry Street, just north of the sanctuary, designed by James Renwick, Jr. and William Rodrigue, who would go on to design the new cathedral. The building would later become St. Michael's Chapel and, since 1936, St. Michael's Russian Catholic Church of the Byzantine Rite, the liturgy is said and sung in Old Slavonic, Russian, and English. St. Michael's is the last Russian Catholic church in New York City and one of only four remaining such sanctuaries in the United States.
In popular culture

The baptism scene in The Godfather was filmed at the old Cathedral, as was the scene in The Godfather, Part III in which Michael Corleone receives an honor from the church. A scene in Mean Streets was set in the cathedral's walled graveyard.

Building Activity

  • removed a media
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com