Cathedral of Saint John the Divine: symbolism and majesty in the New York Cathedral

Who I am
Martí Micolau

If St. Patrick Cathedral has amazed you, St. John the Divine will leave you speechless. It is believed to be the largest Protestant church in the United States and, according to many, even the largest in the world. It is located in one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in New York and is certainly among the main things to see in Harlem, along with Apollo theater and the many gospel masses that you may be lucky enough to attend in the neighborhood.

La St. John the Divine Church it is a cathedral, seat of the episcopal bishop of New York, and with its splendid neo-Gothic facade and its grandeur it is a point of reference, not only religious, which has become more and more established over the years. It contains various architectural styles that make it unique and fascinating, both admiring it from the outside and walking inside. The history of its construction begins in the late nineteenth century and continues to the present day with some parts still to be finished.


  • How to reach us
  • Timetables, tours and prices
  • To see
  • History of the building
  • Where to sleep in the area

How to reach us

St. John the Divine is located at 107 Amsterdam Avenue at 122th Street in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan. To reach it you can take both the metro and the bus:

  • by subway, lines are A, B and C at 110th Street / Cathedral Parkway station and line 1 at Cathedral Parkway 110 Street Station.
  • by bus, the lines are the M4 and M104 getting off at Broadway 112th Street or the M11 line getting off at Amsterdam Avenue 112th Street.

If you are driving, remember that the church does not have its own parking so you will have to park on the street or in one of the nearby car parks.

Timetables, tours and prices

The church is open from 7:30 to 18:00 for the faithful, while for visitors and tourists from Monday to Saturday from 9:00 to 17:00 and on Sundays from 12:30 to 14:30. The entrance fee is $ 10 per person and $ 8 for students and retirees. For groups of 10 or more, admission costs $ 8 per person and $ 6 for students and retirees.

There are various organized tours to discover the secrets of this huge cathedral:

  • Highlights Tours: the tour of the key places of the church, from the bronze doors to the seven chapels. It is not necessary to book in advance. Tours run on Mondays at 11am and 00pm, Tuesday to Saturday at 14am and 00pm, and some Sundays at 11pm. The cost is $ 00 per person and $ 13 for students and retirees;
  • Vertical Tower: the tour that allows you to explore the roof of the cathedral by climbing a spiral staircase. During the visit you will get a better view of the rose windows and glazed windows and, at the end of the tour, reach the roof and enjoy a breathtaking view of Manhattan. Tours run on Mondays at 10am, Wednesdays and Fridays at 00pm, Saturdays at 12pm and 00pm. The cost is $ 12 per person, $ 00 for students and retirees. Children under 14 cannot participate in this type of tour which must be booked in advance through the site;
  • Spotlight Tour: the tour to discover some details of the cathedral with the guides. On the site there is the calendar with the attractions and the possibility to book in advance. The cost is $ 18 per person and $ 15 for students and retirees.

The church is accessible to people with reduced mobility and some wheelchairs are available for those who need it at the Visitor Center.

To see

According to medieval tradition, the church has the shape of a Roman cross and is built higher than the rest of the city: the area of Morningside heightsin fact, it is one of the highest places in New York City.

Still following the symbolism, the most sacred part of the church was built in the east where the sun rises to represent the resurrection and rebirth. Furthermore, the number seven, a number closely linked to St. John, is repeated in the components of the church: seven chapels, fourteen glazed windows, seven lamps on the High Altar and multiples of seven in the dimensions and geometric values ​​of the church itself.

In addition to the splendid facade with the Door of Paradise and the lateral bronze portals, to admire the neo-Gothic central nave, the altar, the chapels and the bell tower added in the XNUMXs but never finished due to lack of funds. The mammoth New York cathedral never completed is the result of visionary ideas of architects of different eras and bishops who have combined symbolism with fundamental human values: unfinished but perhaps for this reason even more eclectic and unique.

History of the building

In 1887 the bishop of New York on behalf of the diocese bought the 13-acre land on which he planned to build an impressive cathedral that would represent the multitude of New Yorkers and immigrants from all over the world.

In 1891, after a long selection of 3 years, the eclectic project by George Heins and Christopher Grant LaFarge won the competition: the church would combine Romanesque, Byzantine and Gothic styles. In 1892 the foundation stone was laid on St John's Day, December 27, by the bishop of the time, Reverend Potter. In the early decades of the twentieth century the various chapels were consecrated, the eight majestic granite columns brought from Maine to support the eastern area of ​​the church, the rose window installed - it is the third largest rose window in the world - and in 1939 the first mass was held inaugurating the central nave.

During the World War, the church was a point of reference for many faithful and in 1945 during the Thanksgiving Mass the number of participants thanking God for the end of the war was impressive. In 1956, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. gave an important sermon and in 1964 as many as six thousand people attended a mass in support of civil rights and the end of racial segregation. In 1969 the church was once again a meeting place to express the dissent of the Americans against political choices, in this case against the war in Vietnam.

St. John the Divine Church will increasingly establish itself as a symbolic place where to invoke peace and promote the harmony of creation. In 1979 the Dalai Lama made the first of many official visits to the cathedral and in 1985 the first Feast of St. Francis was organized, the event in honor of St. Francis which every year includes the procession and blessing of the animals that are welcomed at the interior of the cathedral itself.

Among the distinguished guests of the cathedral was also President Nelson Mandela in 1997 during the funeral of a prominent anti-apartheid activist, Archbishop Trevor Huddleston. On 11 September 2001, hundreds of people spontaneously gathered in the cathedral, while in December of the same year a fire destroyed the northern part of the church. In recent decades there have been major restoration, reconstruction or completion works of some parts of the cathedral which today, while remaining incomplete, is a marvel for the eyes.

Where to sleep in the area

Sleeping in the Harlem district, and more generally in the area immediately north of Central Park, can in some cases be advantageous both in terms of prices (more relaxed than in central Manhattan) and for the fascinating historic brownstone buildings of the area, the important thing is to try not to stray too far from the subway stops in order not to waste too much time traveling. For some targeted suggestions you can click on the button below, where you will also find advice on the other main New York neighborhoods where to look for accommodation, as well as some recommended structures.

Our tips on where to sleep in New York

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