3c: The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine

cathedral outside

Starting at the 110th Street subway stop, you can begin your tour by walking east along 110th Street to Amsterdam Ave and going north to West 111th Street. You’ll hit the Peace Fountain at St. John the Divine first, and by walking further east you will find yourself in front of the Cathedral itself.

The cathedral, designed in 1888 and begun in 1892, has undergone radical stylistic changes and the interruption of the two World Wars. Originally designed in the Byzantine Revival-Romanesque Revival styles, the plan was changed after 1909 to a Gothic Revival design. After a large fire on December 18, 2001, it was closed for repairs and reopened in November 2008. It remains unfinished, with construction and restoration a continuing process. Among the largest churches in the world, the Gothic and Romanesque-style architecture also features an immense Guastavino tile dome. The Cathedral is home to the American Poets Corner, an altarpiece by Keith Haring, stained glass with images of inventors and artists, as well as wandering peacocks. The cathedral is additionally a major center for concert musical performances and its expansive exhibits shape contemporary discourse around art, social justice, and environmental themes.

At the west end of the nave, installed by stained glass artist Charles Connick and constructed out of 10,000 pieces of glass, is the largest rose window in the U.S. Seven chapels radiating from the ambulatory behind the choir are each in a distinctive nationalistic style, some of them borrowing from outside the Gothic vocabulary. The design of the chapels are meant to represent each of the seven most prominent ethnic groups to first immigrate to New York City upon the opening of Ellis Island in 1892, the same year the cathedral was begun. The church’s high altar features a wrought iron enclosure containing the Gothic style tomb of the Right Reverend Horatio Potter, Bishop of New York, the founder of the cathedral. The great west doors on Amsterdam Avenue were designed between 1927 and 1931 by the designer Henry Wilson. The bronze doors (unveiled as the “Golden Doors”) were installed in 1936.

On your visit be sure to stop by the Ithiel Town Building and the Peace Fountain at the Cathedral of Saint John. See our following blog posts for more information on the fabulous locations and how they add to the beauty of the Cathedral.

For a self-guided tour of the Cathedral, pick up a self-guided pamphlet at the Visitors Center desk. For more information on events at the Cathedral, visit http://www.stjohndivine.org/visit/calendar/events

Highlights Tour
Explore the many highlights of the Cathedral’s history, architecture, and artwork, from the Great Bronze Doors to the seven Chapels of the Tongues. Learn about the daily services, events, and programs that welcome and inspire visitors from around the world. This hour-long tour is offered Mondays, 11 am and 2 pm; Tuesdays-Saturdays, 11 am and 1 pm; and select Sundays, 1 pm. Tickets are $6 per person; $5 per student/senior.

Vertical Tour
On this adventurous, “behind-the-scenes” tour, climb more than 124 feet through spiral staircases to the top of the world’s largest cathedral. Learn stories through stained glass windows and sculpture and study the grand architecture of the Cathedral while standing on a buttress. The tour culminates on the roof with a sweeping view of Manhattan. This hour-long tour is offered Wednesdays, 12 pm, and Saturdays, 12 pm and 2 pm. Tickets are $15 per person; $12 per student/senior. To make reservations, please click here, or call (866) 811-4111.

Spotlight Tour
Spotlight Tours are specially created by Cathedral Guides to give visitors a closer look at unique aspects of the Cathedral’s extraordinary architecture, artwork, and history. Visit the Calendar to discover these many different “spotlights” on the Cathedral and to make reservations, or call (866) 811-4111. Tickets are $10 per person; $8 per student/senior, unless otherwise listed.

The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine

1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street
New York, NY 10025
Hours: The Cathedral is open 7:30 am – 6 pm daily.
The Visitor Center and Cathedral Shop are open 9 am – 5 pm daily.
(212) 316-7540