Eighth Graders Visit The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine

The eighth grade visited The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine last Thursday, December 13.

Accompanied by their homeroom teachers, Mr. Clements and Mr. St. Clair, the boys took the M96 bus to the cathedral and paused on the street to take in the gothic structure amid a light dusting of snow.  Mr. Clements explained that the cathedral was built stone on stone, without any steel beams.  Before entering the cathedral, Mr. Clements pointed out the crockets (buds on top of the spires) and described some of the themes contained in the imagery on the front doors and facade.  The boys enjoyed looking closely at the figures carved into the stone and were excited to show each other the details they had discovered.

Once inside, Mr. Clements shared some of the history of The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, often nicknamed “St. John the Unfinished.”  In 1891 George Heins & Christopher Grant LaFarge, who also designed the New York City subway stations, were commissioned to build the structure.  Romanesque in style, an example of their design can be found in the crossing section of the building, where round arches were used rather than pointed arches, regularly found in Gothic architecture.  Mr. Clements pointed out the vaulted dome inside the crossing that was built by the Guastavino brothers.  He also told the boys that the Romanesque columns were constructed from Vinalhaven granite, which was transported to New York from Maine on custom-built barges.  Vinalhaven granite was also used for the base of the Brooklyn Bridge and in the Washington Monument structure.

Mr. Clements explained that after the death of Mr. Heins, a new architect was hired to take over the design of the cathedral.  Ralph Adams Cram brought the neo-Gothic style to the structure.  The full length of the Cathedral (601 feet long) was completed on November 30, 1941.  One week later Pearl Harbor was attacked, and the construction came to a halt.  Mr. Clements explained other circumstances that affected the construction through the 1990s and again in 2001.  Even in its unfinished state, the boys marveled at the impressive structure.

Near the end of the trip everyone had time to explore the chapels surrounding the altar.  Some boys found the figures of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Susan B. Anthony, and Albert Einstein, while others discussed whether the circumference of the largest rosary window was indeed the same length as the distance between the floor and the ceiling (124 feet).  Others talked about how different the bronze doors looked inside of the cathedral versus outside, and a few lucky boys even had the chance to briefly FaceTime with Mr. White over Mr. Clements’ shoulder.  The boys had a wonderful morning exploring one of the iconic buildings of New York City.