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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Standing on Buttresses

For Tom's birthday in January I had the perfect way to start the day: a private all-access tour of St. John the Divine, the largest Cathedral and Anglican church and fourth largest Christian church in the world! Tom loves Cathedrals and the history behind them, so I thought taking a tour of one so special to New York and the world would definitely be memorable (and maybe even score me some bonus birthday points)!

Unfortunately, my friend, and tour guide, got unexpectedly sick and we had to postpone. The day was still all kinds of awesome, but I was eager to re-schedule our tour. Luckily the saying is true, "good things come to those who wait", and last month we cashed in our rain-check and Christina took us inside the walls, literally, of St. John the Divine.
Christina has been working with children's programs and giving private tours of St. John's for about six years and I think it's safe to say she knows everything that needs knowing.

Here are some interesting facts that stuck with me:

*You can fit a four story house, in it's entirety, through the Great Rose Window (which contains 10,000 pieces of glass!).
Standing on the ground I could not imagine that, but when I stood up close and personal to the windows themselves I couldn't believe how enormous they were! (I didn't stand next to the Great Rose. This photo was found online cause the window is not accessible by foot, but the others are).

*The Cathedral's doors were cast by the same man who cast the Statue of Liberty.

*There are seven chapels inside the Cathedral and each represent a different ethnic group in an effort to provide for the diversity of the community. (This was my favorite part--visiting each of the different and unique chapels, and pondering which one would be the best to get married in, naturally.)

*There are two, at least that I remember, tombs inside the church (not counting the crypt underneath) containing actual corpses inside them. I found that a little freaky... but I found the mausoleum areas to be very peaceful and a beautiful place to keep the ashes of a family member.

*The Cathedral has never been finished (and is still the biggest!) and is ongoing restoration from an almost completely destructing fire in 2001.

*The stained glass in the windows and the sealant or putty used to secure each piece is non-flamable. It took some extreme convincing to Firefighter's in 2001 of that fact so they would not break out all the windows in an attempt to save the church. Phew!

We started by making our way inside the walls and up the spiral staircases that reach each level of the church and are often how the Priest's get around the church unseen / unbothered.
We stopped at each floor to hear about the history, the height, and what we were looking at. It was glorious! Looking out and above everyone and seeing the architecture, design and stained glass up close and personal was beautiful.

This photo was taken without zoom. Just me, chillin next to a cathedral window full of stained glass. I could actually reach out and touch this incredible work of art. Can you believe that?!
I particularly liked looking down and seeing the area from such a different point of view (and how tiny the pews were!). The wall details and the carved rosette / flower circles that span the ceiling were also really neat. (You can see them at the top of the photos in the arch ways.)
We even got to stand inside those rosettes once we climbed high enough!
(This picture was taken while I was standing on one "flower beam" and looking at all the other perfectly symmetrical ones).
Last but not least we made our way all the way up to the roof, not only to stand on the flying buttresses and gaze out over the City (which was breathtaking and uber romantic), but to actually tiptoe inside the roof and literally stand on top of the Cathedral; on the dome / nave which is the tallest in the U.S. (about 124 feet high). The roof is actually built over the nave. Who knew?!

Pictures were tough with the light (it's just what comes in naturally) but you get the idea.
The cement is the dome, and then all the beams and walls were built up over that. This actually helps keep the church well ventilated and cool in the summer (there are teen tiny holes in the dome that filter the air--genius!).

It was a breathtaking and memorable experience to say the least, and I hope Tom enjoyed the extension of his birthday celebrations as much as I did!


Rae said...

Wow! I am so jealous! In my first apartment in the city I had a view of this cathedral from my window. It's so pretty. I'm embarrassed to say I've never actually gone in. Can anyone book tours or did you get hooked up with your friend? It sounds amazing. I fell in love with stained glass during my time in London and Paris this winter so I particularly loved reading about it here.

Karene said...


I want to take a tour of the cathedral! How did you set that up?

Amy said...

fascinating! what a cool experience. thanks for sharing!