Today at Saint Patrick’s Church in New York City, Pope Benedict XVI became the third Bishop of Rome to visit the gothic-style Catholic Cathedral, which is also the largest in the United States.

Archbishop John Hughes constructed the cathedral in 1858. When the property of Saint Patrick’s was purchased, it was considered as a country property and was even used as a pasture. Opponents of the project called it, “Hughes Folly.” However later the value of the property would escalate to a parcel of the most valuable real estate in the United States. The American Civil War halted construction on the Cathedral until after the conflict.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral seat about 2200 people. The Liturgy of the Eucharist is regularly celebrated in almost 30 languages on an almost continual basis. Saint Patrick’s is a significant architectural landmark in New York City, having been designed by the revered American architect James Renwick. The cathedral has many devotional chapels with various images of the Blessed Virgin and Saints their themes. The Lady Chapel is always of particular interest to visitors, another prominent American architect, Charles Matthews, designed it.

When one thinks of New York, the name Tiffany’s comes to mind. The famous jewelry store designed and constructed the altars of Saint Michael and Saint Louis.

With the presence of the Holy Father today, he follows in the traditions of Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II who both visited the cavernous cathedral. However, Pope Benedict is the first Pope to celebrate Eucharist at this location. Beneath the main altar of the Cathedral is the crypt where the Archbishops of New York are buried. Additionally, the Cathedral still celebrates the tradition of hanging a cardinal’s galero for each Archbishop of New York that has been elevated to the rank of Cardinal. The galeros are hung from the highest point in the nave of the Cathedral.

Saint Patrick’s is a microcosm of the Catholic history of art and architecture in the United States. The Stations of the Cross in this church were awarded a gold ribbon for artistic merit at the Chicage Worlds Fair in 1893. Additionally the Cathedral has a reproduction of the Pieta by Michelangelo, except the one in New York is three times larger than the original in Rome.

The Archdiocese of New York, along with the Archdioceses of Philadelphia, Boston, Louisville (formerly Bardstown) are celebrating the 200th anniversary of their foundation. The Archdiocese of Baltimore is celebrating the 200th anniversary of it’s elevation to the rank of Primal See of the United States. This title effectively makes Baltimore the Mother Diocese in the United States.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York is a favorite tourist destination for visiting peoples from the world over. In excess of 3 million visitors come to worship or just experience the Cathedral’s great American Catholic History.

Hugh McNichol is a Catholic author that writes on Catholic topics and subjects. He writes daily at http://catholicnewsagency.com and http://pewsitter.com

This week he is following the visit of Benedict XVI as part of the media pool in Washington and New York.

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