The largest cathedral in the world is in Manhattan, but is not a city landmark. That could soon change. On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to calendar a public hearing on the designation of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.
Officially the “Cathedral Church of Saint John: The Great Divine in the City and Diocese of New York,” it is located at 1047 Amsterdam Avenue and serves Episcopalians.
Work on the main church began in 1888 and remains unfinished to this day. The initial design was by George Lewis Heins and Christopher Grant LaFarge, but the project was eventually taken over by Ralph Adams Cram.
Vaulted tile master Rafael Guastavino constructed a tile dome for the Crossing, intended as a temporary roof, in 1909. The dome still covers the Crossing and is one of the largest free-standing domes in the world.
The full length of the cathedral, measuring a whopping 601 feet, was first opened on November 30, 1941, only a week before the attack on Pearl Harbor. That attack and the war ahead took precedence over construction at the church.
The south bell tower and carvings around the center portal were actually made by stonemasons trained at the cathedral’s own stoneyard, which opened in 1979.
The Portal of Paradise, as the Cathedral’s central portal is called, was completed by stonecarver Simon Verity between 1988 and 1997.
A fire in 2001 led to closures until 2008.
Today, the complex includes seven buildings, the oldest being a former orphan asylum that dates back to between 1838 and 1842. The cathedral also boasts a colorful artist in residence – wire-walker Philippe Petit, who crossed between the tops of the Twin Towers in 1974.
Designation of the complex would represent something unusual for the commission, as a building must be 30-years-old to be eligible for designation. St. John the Divine is something different, as it is eternally unfinished.
About its calendaring, LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said, “The moment is now!” The commission will hold a public hearing on the matter in November or December.