Theme: The Idea:THE Cathedral of NYC The Aspect: Uber-Holy Ground The Face(s): Reverend Monsignor Robert T. Ritchie (Rector/Clued in Catholic Priest) Description:
The story of New York’s great cathedral mirrors the story of the city itself. Created to affirm the ascendance of religious freedom and tolerance, St. Patrick’s Cathedral was built in the democratic spirit, paid for not only by the contributions of thousands of poor immigrants but also by the largesse of 103 prominent citizens who pledged $1,000 each. St. Patrick’s Cathedral proves the maxim that no generation builds a cathedral. It is rather, a kind of ongoing conversation linking generations past, present and future.
The cornerstone of St. Patrick’s Cathedral was laid in 1858 and her doors swept open in 1879. It was over 150 years ago when Archbishop John Hughes announced his inspired ambition to build the “new” St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
In a ceremony at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Archbishop Hughes proposed “for the glory of Almighty God, for the honor of the Blessed and Immaculate Virgin, for the exaltation of Holy Mother Church, for the dignity of our ancient and glorious Catholic name, to erect a Cathedral in the City of New York that may be worthy of our increasing numbers, intelligence, and wealth as a religious community, and at all events, worthy as a public architectural monument, of the present and prospective crowns of this metropolis of the American continent.”
Ridiculed as “Hughes’ Folly,” as the proposed, near-wilderness site was considered too far outside the city, Archbishop Hughes, nonetheless, persisted in his daring vision of building the most beautiful Gothic Cathedral in the New World in what he believed would one day be “the heart of the city.” Neither the bloodshed of the Civil War nor the resultant lack of manpower or funds would derail the ultimate fulfillment of Hughes’ dream and architect, James Renwick’s bold plan.
After several weeks of fund raising efforts through The Great Cathedral Fair in October and November of 1878, his successor and the first American cardinal, John Cardinal McCloskey presided over the dedication of the Cathedral on May 25, 1879.
Each generation has added to her splendor. Her spires were completed in 1888 and The Lady Chapel in 1908. Her Kilgen Organs were installed from 1928 to 1930. Major capital improvements were made in the 1940’s and the 1970’s under Cardinals Spellman and Cooke, respectively. The Kilgen organs were restored in the mid 1990s, and the gem of the Cathedral, the Lady Chapel, was restored in 2003. Recent restorations have included the main altar, the chapels of Saints Anthony, Elizabeth, Jean Baptiste de la Salle, Louis and Michael, and the sacristy. There is a new shrine in honor of Our Lady of Czestochowa which includes paintings and statuary of Saints Casimir, Faustina, Jadwiga, Maximilian Kolbe and Stanislaus Kostka. In 2005, the chapels of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Saint Andrew were also restored.
The current Archbishop of New York, His Excellency Timothy M. Dolan, oversees the High Holy Day masses and the ‘political’ side of things, while the Reverend Monsignor Robert T. Ritchie, oversees the more day to day, and supernatural duties, both with His Excellencies’ blessing.
Under Monsignor Ritchie, St. Patricks has operated as an operation center for the Knights of the Cross on Several occasions, as well as provided sanctuary to Immortals and more importantly, the Renegade Warden, Alexandra Ivanova. Tensions between the White Council and The Church are at an all time high due to Monsignor Ritchie providing sanctuary to Donald Morgan’s apprentice following his arrest and execution, and the White Council considers her a traitor. And as the Cathedral was the last known location of Ivanova, the White Council believes the Church responsible for her disappearance soon after, though they deny this.