Adjacent to the creepiest, most unsettling children’s sculpture garden in the city sits the Cathedral of St. John the Divine; the whole 121.000 sq ft (11.240+ sq m) of it.
Originally envisioned in a Romanesque-Byzantine style it was later changed to a Gothic Revival design with massive granite arches that support the building – which has no steel or iron skeleton – and a dome so high it could fit the Statue of Liberty underneath, made of Guastavino tile and intended as a temporary covering. The dome was supposed to be removed when the transepts were built, but so far only half of the north transept is constructed. For this 120-year-old gigantic church is, as yet, unfinished.
St. John the Divine is the cathedral church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York and, as such, the largest cathedral in the world. By some accounts, it is also the world’s third largest church – or is it the fifth?
But, size and grandeur aside, the cathedral is an active house of worship, a concert hall with excellent acoustics and an exhibition space, year-round.
On the day we visited, it was hosting ”The Christa Project: Manifesting Divine Bodies” with works by contemporary artists ”exploring the language, symbolism, art, and ritual associated with the historic concept of the Christ image and the divine as manifested in every person—across all genders, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and abilities.”
Edwina Sandys’ ”Christa”, the project’s centerpiece, was first displayed during the Holy Week of 1984, inevitably attracting mixed reactions: positive in general, there were also those who condemned it as a ‘blasphemy” for changing the symbol of Christ and ”sexualizing” it (by depicting it as a female figure). It seems this time the statue was welcomed unanimously, since it remained on display for several months.
Seeing Christa displayed prominently in this glorious setting it occurred to me that, had this been in an Orthodox church – let alone a cathedral – in my home country (Greece), there would have been riots, threats of excommunication – the full stereotypical drama!
The Poets’ Corner was created in 1984 in honour of American writers and literature. Located in the cathedral’s Arts Bay, it is modeled after a similar alcove for writers at Westminster Abbey in London.
Cathedral of St. John the Divine
1047 Amsterdam Avenue, 112th Street
January 21st, 2017