New York is home to an incredibly rich diversity of sacred structures, many with magnificent artistic treasures in their carved stonework, intricate ceilings, and beautiful stained glass. You will have a chance to view these treasures during The New York Landmarks Conservancy’s ninth annual Sacred Sites Open House weekend, May 18th-19th. This year’s theme is “From Medieval to Modern: Celebrating New York’s Religious Art and Architecture.’’
“Everyone will find something to enjoy,” says Conservancy President Peg Breen, but for those who particularly enjoy stained glass, here are some sites to investigate on your own before or after the weekend.
Stained Glass in NYC: Eldridge Street Synagogue
The Eldridge Street Synagogue, where the Lower East Side and Chinatown intersect, opened in 1887. The building is a magnificent National Historic Landmark that underwent a 20-year, $20 major renovation completed in December 2007. The final element in 2010 was the addition of a monumental stained-glass rose window by artist Kiki Smith and architect Deborah Gans, the only contemporary element in the main sanctuary. This stunning achievement marks the revitalization of the building for the 21st century and is a tribute to the synagogue’s continuing life. The Museum at Eldridge Street, housed in the synagogue, gives one hour tours daily. 12 Eldridge St., eldridgestreet.org
Stained Glass in NYC: St. Michael's Church
Since 1807, People have worshipped at St. Michael’s Church on the Upper West Side. Starting in 1895, Tiffany Studios was engaged to decorate the apse with seven stained glass windows depicting "St. Michael’s Victory in Heaven." The windows, each five feet wide by twenty-two feet tall, were designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany in collaboration with Rev. John Punnett Peters and others. Tiffany used as many as four layers of brilliant jewel tones glass to achieve the effects of sky, clouds, and drapery.
By 1920, the Tiffany Studios decorations in the Chapel of the Angels were completed, including two more stained glass windows. Overall, these works represent one of the largest installations of Tiffany glass and decorations to remain in its original setting. St. Michael’s was designated a New York City Landmark in 2016. 225 W. 95th St., saintmichaelschurch.org
Stained Glass in NYC: Marble Collegiate Church
In 1854, when Marble Collegiate Church was dedicated, it was north of the city limits which then ended at 23rd Street. Back then, Fifth Avenue was a dirt lane which turned into knee-deep mud during rainstorms. Originally, worshippers entered a church that was sparkling white on the inside as well as the outside, with sunlight pouring in through clear glass windows.
In 1900 and 1901, two stained glass windows by the Tiffany Studios were installed in the south wall (“Joshua Leads the Israelites” and “Moses and the Burning Bush”), beginning a century-long project of replacing all 10 of the Sanctuary’s stained glass windows with new designs by a variety of artists, based on biblical stories.
In 1967, the Landmarks Preservation Commission of New York City designated Marble Collegiate Church an official landmark. 1 W. 29 St. at Fifth Avenue, marblechurch.org
Stained Glass in NYC: St. James' Church
Founded in 1810 as a summer chapel in the countryside north of what was then considered to be New York City, St. James' Church is located in a landmarked section of the Upper East Side. The current building was built in 1884-5, and dramatically reconfigured in 1924 when the great Gothic Revival architect Ralph Adams Cram was hired to enlarge and transform the building into the neo-Gothic structure of today. Most of the stained glass windows were removed and replaced by windows executed by studios under Cram’s direction, though three windows by the Tiffany Studios were preserved. 865 Madison Ave., stjames.org
Stained Glass in NYC: Grace Church Brooklyn Heights
Grace Church Brooklyn Heights began in the area in the early 1840s, first established as Emmanuel Church on Sydney Place. Fast forward to the early years of the 20th century when the original diamond-pane windows were replaced with stained glass from studios including Tiffany, J & R Lamb, Clayton & Bell, and Mayer of Munich. The church had a year-long restoration completed in 2014. In 2015, Grace Church was honored with a Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award by the New York Landmarks Conservancy and an award for Excellence in Historic Preservation from the Brooklyn Heights Association.
The "Te Deum" (“To God”) window dominates the east end of the nave, behind the chancel and altar. The figures on the four panels of the window are, left to right: St. Peter, King David, St. Stephen the Martyr, and St. Augustine. The rose window at the west end of the nave was installed in 1917 as a replacement for an earlier window. The 23rd Psalm window is on the north wall of the chancel area. The “Faith, Hope, and Charity” window, at the east end of the south wall, is believed to be the oldest of the windows now in place. There is a series of windows on the north wall that show scenes from the life of Christ. 254 Hicks St., gracebrooklyn.org
Stained Glass in NYC: Temple Emanu-El
Temple Emanu-El, One East 65th Street on Fifth Avenue (visitor entrance at 1 E. 65th St.), began in 1845 in a loft space on the Lower East Side; today it is one of the most majestic synagogues in the world, The building, the third synagogue for the congregation, was the first Reform congregation in New York City.
Designed in 1927 in a mixture of Byzantine, Moorish, and Art Deco styles, the temple features more than 60 stained glass windows replete with Jewish iconographic symbols and Biblical imagery. The "Wheel Window" has 12 panes symbolizing the tribes of Israel surrounding a Star of David, while the seven windows above the rose window symbolize the branches of the menorah. Street level windows depict earlier Temple Emanu-El buildings and noted European synagogues. emanuelnyc.org
Stained Glass in NYC: Church of the Holy Trinity
On May 6, 1899 the Church of the Holy Trinity was consecrated. Originally a “settlement church” with the mission of helping congregants elevate their social condition and improve the life of the neighborhood, it was designated a landmark in 1967.
There are 17 stained glass windows in the church, all memorials to various members of the Rhinelander family, one of the great building families of the 19th century. England’s Henry Holiday designed and made all the windows except the west window, completed by his daughter from his designs after his death. Holy Trinity is one of the few churches in the world in which all the windows were designed by one man. Holiday loved beautifully rendered details, full-fleshed studies of the human figure, opulent costumes, and dramatic situations. In addition to the primary windows, there are also 15 clerestory windows, high up above the adjacent roof. Those on the south side illustrate Old Testament figures; on the north side, the windows show figures from the New Testament. 316 E. 88th St., holytrinity-nyc.org
Stained Glass in NYC: St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church
St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church is a parish church, one of over 200 congregations that make up the Episcopal Diocese of New York. It was built in 1903. although the congregation was founded in 1871 and met in several other venues. St. Ignatius was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
Above the High Altar is a stained glass window depicting the Adoration of the Lamb with Christ represented as a lamb on an altar and the Holy Spirit as a dove, both surrounded by saints and angels. Also shown are St. Peter with his keys; St. Paul with his sword; St. George with armor and flag;, the Virgin holding a lily; St. Mary Magdalen holding a jar ;and St. Agnes holding a lamb. The window was executed by John Hardman & Co., of Birmingham, England.
Facing the High Altar, on the right is a large transept window showing St. Ignatius’ martyrdom in the Colosseum in Rome. It depicts Ignatius surrounded by lions as well as the emperor Trajan and the jeering crowds. In the center panel of the window’s lower story is St. Polycarp, holding a scroll with the first words of the letter Ignatius addressed to him. 552 West End Ave. at 87th Street, saintignatiusnyc.org
We're adding two non-religious suggestions for day trips here: The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass at Queens Museum, along with the Spectacular Tiffany Lamps Light the Way : New-York Historical Society 's Fourth Floor Renovation.