St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, New York

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St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, New York

St Peter's Church is the oldest Roman Catholic parish in New York City and part of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. The church was designated a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1965. The original church's cornerstone was laid in 1785 and the first solemn Mass was celebrated in 1786. This was nearly three years before George Washington—standing less than a mile away on an open-air balcony of Federal Hall (the nation's first capitol)—took the oath of office as the first president of the United States. The cornerstone of the present Greek Revival church, designed by architects Thomas Thomas and John R. Hagarty, was laid in 1836. The existing church was completed in 1840. The address is 22 Barclay Street.


Prior to construction, due to anti-catholic sentiments, city officials in 18th-century New York urged project organizers to change the church’s initial location on Broad Street, in what was then the heart of the city, to a site outside the city limits at Barclay and Church. The builders relented and accepted the present location. On Christmas Eve 1806, two decades after the church was built, the building was surrounded by Protestants incensed at a celebration going on inside — a religious observance then viewed by some in the United States as an exercise in “popish superstition,” more commonly referred to as Christmas. Protesters tried to disrupt the service. In the melee that ensued, dozens were injured, and a policeman was killed.

St Peter’s Church is where Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first United States citizen to be canonized, converted to Catholicism. Saint Elizabeth often prayed before The Crucifixion painting above St. Peter's main altar. (The painting by Mexican artist Jose Vallejo was a gift from the archbishop of Mexico City in 1789).

St Peter’s Church was also the parish of Pierre Toussaint for 66 years who was born a black slave in Haiti and well-known known for his great generosity to the poor. Toussaint is currently in the process of becoming a saint in the Catholic Church.

The building was damaged during the September 11, 2001, attacks due to being hit by a portion of the landing gear.The World Trade Center cross temporarily sits on the Church Street side.

The body of Father Mychal Judge, the chaplain for the New York City Fire Department and "Victim 0001", who was killed in the 911 attacks, was laid before the altar by his fellow fireman. The church also served as a staging ground for rescue/recovery operations after 9/11. "We were the first place they were bringing all the emergency equipment. Everything was in disarray," The then pastor, Father Madigan stated. "Stuff was piled six feet high all over the pews—bandages, gas masks, boots, hoses and cans of food for the workers and the volunteers, many of whom were sleeping in the church on bedrolls." The same was true of the downstairs church.

Normal life did not come back to St. Peter's until October 28, when martial law in the area was lifted. "That was when we officially celebrated our first Mass after September 11," says Father Madigan. There were other Masses before then, but only for the rescue workers and those with credentials to get in. After October 28 the parish cut back on the number of Masses "because the number of people coming was way down. Many who had been coming to Mass at St. Peter's or St. Joseph's from the World Trade Center, of course, were not around anymore."

In 2010, Father Madigan, commented on the Park51 project (aka "Ground Zero Mosque"), noting that "the arguments and parries of the opponents mirrored those brought against St. Peter's in 1785." He also added that Park51’s organizers would have to “make clear that they are in no way sympathetic to or supported by any ideology antithetical to our American ideals, which I am sure they can do.”

Mass schedule

Weekend Mass Times: Sat: 4pm; Sun: 8am, 9:30am, 12pm

Weekday Mass Times: (English): M-F: 7:10am, 7:45am, 12:05pm, 1:05pm

Real estate

The real estate it sits on has a market value of $4,670,000 as of 2006.

Building Activity

  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings updated a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via Annotator
  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings updated 2 digital references and added a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via