The largest cathedral in the world is, of course, in New York. And it’s still growing

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

 

The creepiest, most unsettling children’s sculpture garden in the city

Sits next to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, in Morningside Heights. It is adorned with little bronze statues, the “Animals of Freedom” created by children artists selected in a public competition in 1985. The statues are circling a larger bronze sculpture the “Fountain of Peace”, created by Greg Wyatt, sculptor-in-residence at the Cathedral. Laden with biblical symbols and connotations, some peaceful but mostly violent, such as a tranquil Moon and a joyous Sun, Archangel Michael, the Prince of the Archangels and Defender of the Faith, a decapitated Satan (defeated by the sword of said Archangel), a giant crab, giraffes and several other animals all sitting on a pedestal that resembles the double helix of DNA – the tree of life, while four sets of hands rise up from the ground.

Spectacular? Yes
Peaceful? Wouldn’t say so, what do you think?

Morningside Heights,
Manhattan

January 21st, 2017

Nevermind the Titanosaure, you can touch a Meteorite in the Natural History Museum

Billions of years ago, an early planet orbiting the Sun was shattered, perhaps in collision with another protoplanet. The fragment now known as the Willamette meteorite was probably part of the planet’s iron-nickel core.

Thousands of years ago, this meteorite, traveling some 64.000 kilometres per hour, crashed into Earth’s surface.

Over many centuries, rainwater interacting its iron sulfide deposits produced sulfuric acid, which slowly etched and carved large cavities.

Only about 600 of the 25.000 meteorites found on Earth are made of iron. The material was created deep inside stars, which produce energy by fusing lighter elements into heavier ones – for example hydrogen into helium. 

Touching it is warmly encouraged.

The 15.5-ton Willamette Meteorite

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An influx of knowledge that raises even more questions; like, how to find out how much you weigh on the Moon:

Weight on the moon conversion formula

Or, you can go on this scale:

20,9 pounds equals almost 9,5 kilos (no diet necessary on the Moon…)

Learning is fun at the American Museum of Natural History
Upper West Side, Manhattan

November 13th, 2016

Natural History Course

Walking through the immensity of the Museum of Natural History, in Upper West Side. Every room another wonder of our Cosmos.

Megaloceros

Megaloceros (Greek: μεγάλος – megalos + κέρας – keras, meaning “Great Horn”) may be the largest deer ever to have lived. It belongs to the group called artiodactyls (Greek: άρτιος – ártios + δάκτυλος – dáktylos, meaning ‘even finger/toe’) – hoofed mammals that usually have an even number of toes. Generally, only male artiodactyls have antlers. In living deer, they are used during the mating season for wrestling with other males and attracting females. Then, they are shed. This means that Megaloceros regrew its enormous antlers every year!

Stenomylus hitchcocki

Stenomylus (Greek στενός – stenos “narrow” and μύλος – milos [latin: mola] “molar” meaning ”narrow tooth”. This group of camel skeletons was buried in dune sand in western Nebraska 22 million years ago. These individuals are only some of the numerous completely preserved camel skeletons that were found together at a site in Agate Springs National Monument. Stenomylus lived in a region where dune fields extended widely. It was relatively primitive in its body skeleton, but had the more advanced feature of very high-crowned teeth – presumably to cope with sand-laden food, which rapidly wears down the teeth. 

If I understood correctly, ”hitchcocki” was added in honour of Dr. Edward Hitchcock, a geologist and President of Amherst College, whose Ichnology Collection of dinosaur footprints and tracks is invaluable (read more about it here).

 

Mammuthus

Mammoths were widespread during the Ice Ages. Some had woolly fur to keep them warm. This is a ”non-woolly” mammoth that lived in southern parts of the United States, which were not covered by glaciers. Like living elephants, Mammoths had trunks. We can’t see it on this skeleton, because soft parts are rarely preserved as fossils. But we can see where the trunk was attached, at the large single opening high on the front of the skull. The Greek myth of one-eyed giants, the Cyclops, may have arisen when ancient people found fossil provoscidean skulls and mistook this nostril opening for an eye socket. Most mammoths died out by 11.000 years ago but a few somewhat dwarfed forms persisted until about 3.000 years ago on remote arctic islands.

Titanosauria
(click on photo for a panoramic view and caption)

This stuffed beauty
(although I instinctively dislike stuffed animals)

Creatures of the sea hanging in mid-air
And those that came from the cold

American Museum of Natural History

November 13th, 2016