This Gothic-style edifice—the largest Catholic cathedral in the United States, seating approximately 2,400 people—is among Manhattan's most striking churches, with its double spires topping out at 330 feet. "St. Pat's," as locals call it, holds a special place in the hearts of many New Yorkers and provides a calm and quiet refuge in the heart of buzzy Midtown, despite the throngs of tourists (the cathedral receives more than 5.5 million visitors annually).
The church dates back to 1858–79, but thanks to an extensive $177 million rehabilitation project, completed in late 2015 and christened with a papal visit and mass, the cathedral no longer shows its age. The three-year renovation left no stone or detail unturned, from the stone faces of the 80-foot spires that tower above 5th Avenue to the cleaned and glazed (for UV protection) 3,700 stained-glass panels and the newly revealed skylights that had been covered with roofing for decades, down to the newly added panels of the
confessional, carefully carved to match existing woodwork. In addition to cosmetic work and restorations, the building now has a state-of-the-art sprinkler system as well as a heating and cooling system that reduces energy consumption by 30%. Highlights of this brightened and refreshed cathedral include the almost-90-year-old organ in the choir gallery with its—newly cleaned—7,855 pipes and the famous rose window (considered stained-glass-artist Charles Connick's greatest work). Also check out the statues in the alcoves around the nave, including a modern depiction of the first American-born saint, Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton. Don't miss the ornately carved bronze double doors on your way in and out: each weighs 9,200 pounds and features sculptures of saints.
The church's Pietà sculpture is three times larger than the Pietà at St. Peter's in Rome. Daily masses are open and free to the public (check the website for schedule) with the exception of Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, which is a ticketed event. Free guided tours are held at 10 am most days (call ahead to confirm).