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St Patrick's Old Cathedral

St Patrick's Old Cathedral (30)

Its foundation stone was laid on 8 June 1809, and it was opened on 14 May 1815. To be precise, you are facing the oldest Catholic church throughout the city: Saint Patrick's Old Cathedral.

Designed by architect Joseph Francois Mangin, Saint Patrick's is nearly 37 metres long by 24 wide and reaches a height of 26 metres at the dome. On the western wall, you will see a beautiful marble altar and, on the eastern wall, a historic organ called Erben 3-41, which was built by Henry Erben in 1852, a real gem that is still being used.

The old cathedral was built in honour of Saint Patrick, the Ireland's patron saint, as it served as a place of gathering of Irish newcomers since 1809. Later, in the mid-19th century, this community had already collected enough funds to create a newer and larger centre of worship, but before it could be finished, a fire destroyed the old Cathedral, which had to be rebuilt in 1866. Because of its high restoration costs, in the process it was decided to remove certain decorations, such as the rose window and other Gothic decorations. Finally, it reopened its doors in 1868, this time dedicated to Cardinal John McClosky, the first US cardinal.

In addition, under the Old Cathedral lies an impressive labyrinth of burial vaults, and outside you will find a cemetery with graves and curious tombstones. Among all these, we would like to highlight the original resting place of Pierre Toussaint, an American who was born a slave in Haiti and who donated the fortune he gathered to the poor; thus, he was later on beatified by Pope John Paul II. However, in 1983, his remains were transferred to the new cathedral, located on Fifth Avenue and 50th.

Historically, Saint Patrick's Old Cathedral has been considered the church of people, because it has contributed to creating New York and the United States generation after generation. Besides hosting the Irish community, Germans, French and Italians arrived here. This is why it is so dear to people. At present, most of the faithful are descendants of Italians and Latin Americans, and even religious services for the Chinese community are offered in the other church on Broome Street, near here, which is called Most Holy Crucifix.

As a curiosity, you should know that, among other films, the baptism scene from The Godfather was filmed here, the well-known 1972 film by Francis Ford Coppola starring among its actors Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and Diane Keaton.

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