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New York City: A Catholic sightseer’s guide



Zelda Caldwell - published on 08/13/18

Visit the city's oldest churches and shrines and explore its rich Catholic history.

If you’ve had your fill of Broadway shows and shopping and are looking for something decidedly different to do while visiting New York City, here’s an itinerary for a grand tour of Catholic New York.

Starting in lower Manhattan, take a tour of the historic sites that tell the story of New York’s Catholic past and present, from the city’s first Catholic church to a museum that brings medieval Europe to life.

1. St. Peter Church at Ground Zero

Start your tour off in lower Manhattan with a visit to St. Peter Church, the oldest Catholic church in New York State. With the help of a donation of 1,000 silver pieces from King Charles II of Spain, the original church was built in 1785.

It was at St. Peter’s that St. Elizabeth Ann Seton had her First Communion after converting from the Episcopal to the Catholic Church. Seton sat for hours at the church’s altar contemplating the painting “The Crucifixion,” by Mexican artist Jose Vallejo, which still hangs in the present-day church.

Rebuilt in 1836 in Greek revival style, the church, stands at the heart of New York’s financial districts. Located a block from the site of the September 11, 2001 attack, it served emergency workers at the World Trade Center. 

Address: St. Peter Roman Catholic Church, 22 Barclay Street

Beyond My Ken | CC BY-SA 4.0

2.  Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine

The shrine of the first American-born canonized saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton, is located at the site of the saint’s former home at 7 State Street. Seton’s shrine, located at Our Lady of the Rosary Church, is a sacred place for devotion to Mother Seton. Visitors can also learn more about the saint, who established the first free Catholic school for girls and was the founder of the Sisters of Charity. 

Address: Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine, 7 State Street

Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche

Read more:
Pop in at a shrine on your summer holiday — Part 2: Eastern USA

Beyond My Ken | CC BY-SA 4.0

3. St. Joseph Hospitality House

Next stop on the tour is the St. Joseph House in the East Village, a “house of hospitality” founded by Catholic reformer Dorothy Day in 1967. Here, she established the office of the Catholic Worker newspaper, and served the city’s poor with a soup kitchen which still exists today.

Address: Catholic Worker and St. Joseph House, 36 E. 1st Street

Nick Normal | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

4. Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral

The Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral,  known as “Old St. Pat’s,” sits on the corner of Mott and Prince Streets in trendy Nolita. Built in 1815, it served the city’s growing Catholic population as the cathedral of New York City until the present one was built in midtown in 1858.

Address: 263 Mulberry Street

Read more:
We all know St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but… do you know “Old St. Pat’s”?

Jim Henderson | PD

5. St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Hop in a cab or take the subway to Midtown to visit New York’s most recognizable Catholic building, St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Located on Fifth Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets, it was built between 1858 and 1879 and is the largest Gothic-style Catholic church in America.

Address: St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 5th Avenue


Read more:
How New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral celebrates the Virgin Mary


6. St. Frances Cabrini Shrine

The St. Francis Cabrini Shrine, dedicated to Mother Cabrini, is located in northern Manhattan along the banks of the Hudson River. The shrine’s chapel contains the remains of the saint and founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who died in 1917.  The sisters established homes and a school that served impoverished Italian-American immigrants.

Address: 701 Fort Washington Avenue

St. Frances Cabrini Shrine via Facebook | Fair Use

7. The Cloisters

A little further up the Hudson River is the Cloisters, a museum dedicated to the art of medieval Europe, which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While not Catholic per se, the museum’s collection features over 2,000 works of art, including altarpieces, sacred art, and tapestries dating from the 12th through the 15th century.

Housed in a building designed to look like a cloister found in a medieval monastery, the museum offers a unique respite from the hustle and bustle of New York.

Address: 99 Margaret Corbin Drive

Polka0505 | CC BY-SA 4.0

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