All churches are not created equal. One may be a simple four-walled structure built in just a few days, or an elaborate and laborious undertaking such as the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, which took almost 650 years to build. Churches are constructed as places of worship but may serve other purposes as well, such as paying homage to a saint. Churches built to house seats for bishops are cathedrals, and usually are a bit more spectacular in their aesthetics, making them popular places to visit outside of services. New York City is home to its fair share of cathedrals, all of which are open to the public.
St. Patrick's Cathedral
Built between 1858 and 1879 in an area deemed too far out of the city, St. Patrick's Cathedral now lies, somewhat ironically, in Midtown just east of Hell's Kitchen. Aesthetically stunning both inside and out, this Catholic cathedral was constructed with donations from both the pockets of poor immigrants and wealthy citizens, and is a generational work in progress. Magnificent spires were added in 1888; the Lady Chapel was added in 1908 and restored in 2003; Kilgen Organs were added by 1930 and restored in the mid-90s; and in 2005, a few of the chapels were restored. Masses are open to the public.
St. Patrick's Old Cathedral
Although it no longer holds a seat for a bishop -- the honor was usurped by the newer St. Patrick's Cathedral -- St. Patrick's Old Cathedral remains New York's third largest Catholic church and has many achievements to its name. Built in 1815, it was the largest church of its time, the first Catholic cathedral in the New York diocese and only the second Catholic church in the city. It also was one of the first buildings to be declared a NYC landmark and in 1977, it found a place in the National Register of Historic Places. It also boasts one of the earliest operatic performance -- 1926 -- in the United States. It was being designated a basilica in 2010.
St. John the Divine
St. John the Divine is a cathedral that has had its fair share of struggles. Its conception began in 1828, but its cornerstones were not laid until 1892. Later still came the bedrock in 1894. Other bumps in the road of building this Episcopalian cathedral were a crucial design change from Romanesque to Gothic architectural style 17 years into its building; its opening while still unfinished the day before Pearl Harbor was bombed, causing a 29-year delay in construction; and a fire in 2001 which still called for repairs nearly seven years later. As of 2013, it remains unfinished, but that is not to say it doesn't have its unique features. The bronze casting of its doors was done by Barbedienne, whose work also can be seen in the famed State of Liberty; it holds seven chapels in an effort to provide diversity to its congregation; and it even has a Poet's Corner, which pays tribute to authors of American literature.
St. Vartan Cathedral
St. Vartan Cathedral is named after St. Vartan, a fifth-entury Armenian martyr who fought to preserve Christianity. Built in 1958, and opened in 1968 during the 53rd anniversary of the Armenian genocide, the cathedral contains a dome, extensive open plaza and exceptional limestone exterior. It also hosts musical performances, art exhibits, educational programs and more, all open to the public, and has been home to the One World Festival since 1973.
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