The best churches in New York?
April 1, 2005 1:24 PM   Subscribe

What are the best churches in New York City?

Old, beautiful stonework, woodwork and glass, serene sanctuaries. I have been looking for pictures, but churches are v. hard to find on the internet. I've passed by a bunch in the Village but don't know anything about them, nor do I remember more than glimpses. I'm not interested in the cathedrals, I know they're out there. I'm looking for personal reccommendations, experiences (I'll also take warnings of places to stay away from).

I live in E. Williamsburg so North Brooklyn and close to 14th street would be best for me (north of Canal, south of 28th). But please don't let that stop you! Where are your favorites? I'm mostly interested in Catholic or Unitarian (or Buddhist), but I am not one to refuse the extraordinary.
posted by scazza to Religion & Philosophy (12 answers total)
St. Thomas, at 53rd and 5th, is in my opinion an excellent example of (neo) Gothic architecture. It's a sizeable building, but not overwhelming, and the western wall is covered in sculpture. They have some very well-made stained glass. Plus their men and boys choir is among the best in the world. They have an Evensong service every Sunday at 4:00.
posted by lackutrol at 1:33 PM on April 1, 2005

Assuming you plan to worship, not just look, you'll want to check out the NYC churches that have been visited by the Mystery Worshipper (there's more than one of him or her). Keeps you from wasting your time where appearances are great but the sermon, music or fellowship are not up to par. The site favors Episcopal churches over most others, which ought to be close enough to your Catholic specification, if you'll go for Unitarian just the same.
posted by beagle at 1:35 PM on April 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

Yes, I am looking for a place to attend, not just to look at, nor just pictures to look at. Help!
posted by scazza at 1:48 PM on April 1, 2005

Trust me on this - Marble Collegiate church when Dr. Arthur Caliandro is speaking. 5th and 29th.
posted by vronsky at 2:20 PM on April 1, 2005

I can't help you with RC or Unitarian churches, but I'll share my favorite: 5th Avenue Presbyterian is one of the most beautiful churches in the city. It's just a block or so north of St. Thomas (mentioned above). It has some of the finest woodwork I have ever seen. Since most Presby churches are very modest by design, that one in particular stands out.

Also recommend St. Bart's on 50th and Park Ave, and St. John the Divine (both Episcopal) at 112th and Amsterdam.
posted by psmealey at 3:13 PM on April 1, 2005

Just a visitor, not a parishoner, but The Little Church Around The Corner is beautiful and remarkably serene.
posted by melissa may at 5:28 PM on April 1, 2005

I second the recommendation for St. Bart's. Great music (one of the biggest pipe organs in NYC if you like that sort of thing), and the congregation is involved in a lot of things. I just really like the place every time I go.

I've been to Riverside Church and found it beautiful, but the pastor talked more about himself than anything else. Plus the lack of liturgy rubbed this cradle Episcopalian the wrong way.

On the other hand, I found St. Mary the Virgin to be overly stuffy and formal, and not at all welcoming. (They're an Episcopal church, but describe themselves as "Anglo-Catholic." Very conservative-Catholic-leaning, Rite I kind of place was the impression I got.)
posted by Vidiot at 6:58 PM on April 1, 2005

St John's is the largest Gothic church in the world.
posted by xammerboy at 9:20 PM on April 1, 2005

All these are quite noteworthy, often overlooked is the Church of the Incarnation with design works ranging from Tiffany glass to Edward Burne-Jones to H.H. Richardson to Saint-Gaudens, a virtual who's who of late 19th and early 20th century designers. There are several books on the topic for other churches and don't forget to look for some of the great churches north of 96th street.
posted by Duck_Lips at 10:31 PM on April 1, 2005

There are three Unitarian churches in Manhattan none are below 28th though. Here is the directory for the Metro NY district. There are also a few in Brooklyn.

I gotta tell you though that in general most UU churches aren't going to fit the " Old, beautiful stonework, woodwork and glass" you are looking for.
posted by JPD at 12:35 AM on April 2, 2005

Thank you everyone!

Anyone know anything about the smaller churches in the Village (East/West/Greenwich)?

I know there are lots of beautiful churches above 28th or in the 100s, unfortunately they're not accessible to me on a regular basis.
posted by scazza at 9:10 AM on April 2, 2005

I've never been inside, but Grace Church, another Episcopal parish, fits your geographical requirements--Broadway and 10th. From the Web site, I'd assume that it has the usual Episcopal combination of good organ and choral music and nice surroundings.

I once went to Old St. Patrick's (former Catholic cathedral) on Mulberry (I think) for Easter Mass, and it was nice, but the congregation is so small that it was just kind of sad.

Vidiot, you may be amused to know that St. Mary's is known among some people as "smoky Mary's" for their prodigious use of incense. It's a great place to go if you want a service that could be described as "creepy."
posted by lackutrol at 11:30 AM on April 2, 2005

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