Sun-Fri, 9am-9pm; Sat, 9am-6pm
1, A, B, C, D at 59th St.-Columbus Circle
Having disapproved of the original architectural plans for the mother church of the Paulist religious order—it was thought to be too narrow—Father George Deshon, a West Point graduate and Paulist priest, personally took control. The result was the 121-foot wide Church of St. Paul the Apostle, which at the time of its completion in 1885, boasted the largest truss-arch ceiling of its kind in the world. The Gothic exterior rises 114 feet and is made of stone from the aqueducts that once carried water to Manhattan. The perimeter of the Byzantine-style interior features dozens of paintings and altars—depicting Roman Catholic figures such as St. Patrick and St. Paul, himself—created by American artists and architects like William Laurel Harris and Stanford White. The art extends above and below as well: the ceiling (also designed by a Paulist priest) recreates the constellation of stars visible on January 25, 1885, the date of the church's dedication, while two marble mosaics are built into the floor. Though St. Paul's once held as many as 2,000 people, its capacity is now approximately 900 after undergoing a major renovation that was completed in 1994. Because the original pulpit was located at the center of the church, pews in the front were designed with a reversible back to allow congregants who had been facing the front altar to turn towards the center. Many of these benches were salvaged during renovations and are now located at the church's rear, where they can be reversed to face the large marble baptismal font.Founding Father
Father Isaac Thomas Hecker, the founder of the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle (a.k.a., the Paulists), is buried in a tomb in the rear corner of the church. A marble statue of the Angel of the Resurrection marks the site, and an adjacent display case houses such items as Hecker's burial mask and his mass vestments.