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Trinity Chapel Complex

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cathedral of St. Sava
Trinity Chapel Complex
Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava.jpg
Church in 2011
Cathedral of St. Sava is located in Lower Manhattan
Cathedral of St. Sava
Cathedral of St. Sava
40°44′37″N 73°59′24″W / 40.74361°N 73.99000°W / 40.74361; -73.99000
Location15 West 25th St.
Manhattan, New York City
CountryUnited States
DenominationSerbian Orthodox
Previous denominationEpiscopal Church (United States)
Former name(s)Trinity Chapel
Functional statusTemporarily closed
Richard Upjohn
parish school:
Jacob Wrey Mould
clergy house:
Richard Upjohn &
Richard M. Upjohn
reredos & altar:
Frederick Clarke Withers
StyleGothic Revival
Years builtsanctuary: 1850-55
parish school: 1860
clergy house: 1866
DioceseSerbian Orthodox Eparchy of Eastern America
Trinity Chapel Complex
NRHP reference #82001205[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPDecember 16, 1982
Designated NYCLApril 18, 1968

Trinity Chapel Complex, later the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava (Serbian: Црква светог Саве; Crkva svetog Save), is a historic church at 15 West 25th Street between Broadway and the Avenue of the Americas (6th Avenue) in the NoMad neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City.

The church building was constructed in 1850-55 and was designed by architect Richard Upjohn in English Gothic Revival style.[2] It was built as one of several uptown chapels of the Trinity Church parish, but was sold to the Serbian Eastern Orthodox parish in 1942, re-opening as the Cathedral of St. Sava in 1944.

The church complex includes the Trinity Chapel School, now the Cathedral's Parish House, which was built in 1860 and was designed by Jacob Wrey Mould, a polychromatic Victorian Gothic building which is Mould's only extant structure in New York City.[2] Attached to the sanctuary itself is the Clergy House at 26 West 26th Street, which was built in 1866 and was designed by Richard Upjohn and his son Richard M. Upjohn.[3]

The chapel was designated a New York City landmark in 1968,[4] and the complex was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.[1]

Most of the church was destroyed in a four-alarm fire on May 1, 2016. In June 2016 reports were circulating that the city of New York ordered that the remains of the structure be demolished, stating that the walls are too unstable to be allowed to stand.[5] The Buildings Department quickly clarified that the inspection was not complete and they had not ordered the immediate demolition of the building and instead is working with the parish to stabilize the structure.[6][7]

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(piano music) Male voiceover: We're in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, which has tremendous importance to Catholicism. This is where the Pope will lead mass, but perhaps most famously this is the room that the college of cardinals uses to decide the next Pope. Female voiceover: And every surface of this space is decorated, from the beautiful mosaics on the floor. The walls are painted with frescoes by early Renaissance artists. The wall behind the alter was painted by Michelangelo later in his life, and then of course the ceiling. Male voiceover: And everybody is looking up. Their necks are craned, and of course it's magnificient. We're here in the late afternoon on a day in early July. The light is diffuse and it makes those frescoed figures feel so dimensional. They feel like sculpture. Female voiceover: And you can imagine what it was like when this was unveiled in 1512, after Michelangelo had worked on it for years, how different, how revolutionary Michelangelo's figures seemed. Male voiceover: Well he was first and foremost a sculptor, and it wasn't actually until a relatively recent cleaning that we knew his brilliance as a colorist, but for him line and drawing and the act of carving figures out of paint was primary. You have this extraordinary ability to render both strength and elegance simultaneously. Female voiceover: They have a massiveness and a presence that is charismatic, but there's also a sense of elegance and ideal beauty. So, let's describe what we're looking at. Male voiceover: Okay. Probably the most important are the series of nine scenes that move across the central panels. Female voiceover: And those are framed by a painted architectural framework that looks real. It doesn't look like paint. And we start with the creation of the world. God separating light from darkness. Male voiceover: I love that scene. This primordial God, light on one side of his body and the darkness of night on the other,this initial separation and division to create order in the universe. Female voiceover: And then we move through to the creation of Adam, the creation of Eve. Male voiceover: Oh, the separation of the sexes. Female voiceover: And the creation of God's most perfect creature, human beings. And then the fall of human beings. Male voiceover: In a sense, the separation of good and evil. Female voiceover: Man and woman disobeying God causing the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and then the far end by the entrance we see the scenes of Noah. Male voiceover: So, these are all scenes from the first book of the bible, from the Book of Genesis, and it's so interesting because of course this is a Catholic church and yet we don't see images of Christ, but these Old Testament scenes lay the foundation for the coming of Christ. Female voiceover: And Christ is present in other ways. Not only does the disobedience of Adam and Eve make the coming of Christ necessary but when we look on either side of those central scenes we see the prophets and the Sibyls who predicted the coming of a savior for mankind. Male voiceover: The image of the Libyan sibyl that we're sitting directly across from is spectacularly beautiful. So sibyls are these ancient Pagan soothsayers who can foresee the future and according to the Catholic tradition foretell the coming of Christ, but look at the Libyan sibyl. Look at the power of her body, and look at the elegance with which she twists and turns. There's that sense of potential in the way that her toe just reaches down and touches the ground but seems as if she's in the act of moving and possibly of standing. Female voiceover: There's the presence and drama to these figures, to the Libyan sibyl especially. She twists her body in an almost impossible way and we can see Michelangelo has articulated every muscle in the back, and in fact we know that he used a male model for that figure. Male voiceover: I'm so taken with the color here. When I first studied Michelangelo we spoke only of line, of sculptural form, but of course after the dramatic cleaning of the Sistine Chapel those original colors, their brilliance, their delicacy came out. Female voiceover: And we see purples and golds and oranges and blues and greens. Male voiceover: She, of course, is reaching back and presumably that's a book of prophecy that she holds, and there's a look of confidence and knowing on her face. The absolute clarity with which she knows that Christ will come. Female voiceover: Sitting on the architectural framework on the four corners of all of the central scenes are male nude figures that we refer to as ignudi. Male voiceover: I think this is really important because Michelangelo is not painting simply separate paintings, but he's creating this enormously complex stage set with which to create levels of reality and so for example the Libyan sibyl seems as if she is seated amongst the architecture and then set next to her are bronze figures and then in the spandrels, as you mentioned, other scenes that seem to recede into a kind of illusionistic distance. Female voiceover: And then relief sculptures on the architecture on either side of her, and then seated above those the ignudi, and it's so clear that we're at this moment, at the rediscovery of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture and Michelangelo is in Rome. He's in the Vatican. Male voiceover: This is the high Renaissance. It's so interesting to compare the optimism, the elegance, the nobility of the figures of the figures on the ceiling with the far darker and more pessimistic view that Michelangelo will paint decades later on the back wall, The Last Judgment. Female voiceover: That's right. There's a big difference between 1512 when Michelangelo completes the ceiling and when he begins The Last Judgment. The Protestant Reformation has begun and the church is under attack. Male voiceover: Michelangelo's world had been shattered, but when you look at the ceiling you see instead all of the optimism, all of the intellectual and emotional power that characterizes the high Renaissance in all of its new found appreciation for the ancient world. This was a moment of incredible promise, and all of that comes shining through these figures. Female voiceover: And let's not forget that just a few doors away simultaneously Raphael is painting the frescoes in the papal palace. So, what a moment in Rome. (piano music)



The entrance to the cathedral (2011)
The entrance to the cathedral (2011)

The outside is made of heavy exterior blocks of the building were etched in a rough finish, accented with austere Gothic trim and details. The front façade sits on West 25th Street and faces south. It measures around 65 feet (20 m) in width by roughly 100 feet (30 m) in height. The façade is supported by four stone buttresses, framed by delicate stone turrets at the sides, and punctuated by a large rose window above the entrance.[8]

Prior to the fire that took place May 1, 2016, the church was known to have had one of the largest timber hammerbeam roofs in the City of New York.[9]


Trinity Chapel

With the population of New York City moving ever-northward up Manhattan island in the mid-19th century, Trinity Church, the center of Episcopalianism in the city, needed to provide for its uptown parishioners, especially in the increasingly sought-after residential neighborhoods around Union and Madison Squares.[2] The church's solution was to build a chapel, named Trinity Chapel, on West 25th Street just off of Madison Square as an uptown annex.[10] The architect selected was Richard Upjohn, who designed the third and current version of Trinity Church, as well as the Church of the Ascension on Fifth Avenue and West 10th Street, as well as many other churches in the Gothic Revival mode in the northeast.

The parish was a wealthy and influential one, and Trinity was the only one of Trinity Church's chapels which was capable of supporting itself without assistance from the home church.[10] In 1865 in Trinity Episcopal Church the Orthodox Liturgy was held for the first time in American history.[8] Among the congregants was writer Edith Wharton, who was married in the church in 1885.[3] In 1892, the reredos and altar were redesigned by Frederick Clarke Withers.[3]

Cathedral of St. Sava

Bust of Nikola Tesla outside the cathedral
Bust of Nikola Tesla outside the cathedral

By 1930, as the rich and influential continued their uptown migration, the neighborhood around Madison Square had seriously declined. The Chapel was now located within the Tenderloin, the city's main entertainment and red light district, and the congregation had dwindled. A Serbian Orthodox congregation, founded in the 1930s, purchased the building in 1942, with assistance from various Serbian churches, and the building re-opened in 1944 as a Serbian Orthodox cathedral dedicated to Saint Sava, the patron saint of the Serbs. The first pastor was Rev. Dushan Shoulkletovich.[10] Peter II, the last king of Yugoslavia attended services here.[10]

Gradual changes were made to the sanctuary to make it more Eastern Orthodox in style. A hand-carved oak iconostasis was added in 1962.[10][11] The Byzantine, hand-carved Iconostasis, brought from the Monastery of St. Naum in Ohrid, Yugoslavia, was placed in the Cathedral and blessed.[12]

The Icons on the Iconostasis were written by Russian iconographer, Ivan Meljinkov.[12]

When a bomb went off near the church on September 4, 1966[13] destroying some of the stained-glass windows, they were replaced with new ones commissioned in Byzantine style.[10][11]

His Holiness Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle visited St. Sava Cathedral in October 1992. This was the first time the New York Church community was visited by a Patriarch.[12]

Outside the church are busts of Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, who was instrumental in founding the parish, helped to organize the Serbian Orthodox Church in America, and was in later years the "luminary-in-residence" at the cathedral; Nikola Tesla, the inventor and entrepreneur; and Michael Pupin, a physicist of Serbian heritage.[3][10]

Prior to the fire of May 1, 2016 around $4 million had been spent on renovations to the cathedral's roof, gutters, and its attached community center in the past decade.[14] The church's ceiling was repainted during those renovations to depict a nighttime sky.[14]

2016 fire

The cathedral after the fire. (Photo: May 3, 2016)
The cathedral after the fire. (Photo: May 3, 2016)

On May 1, 2016, a massive fire occurred at the church, on the day Orthodox Christians were celebrating Easter, destroying most of the building.[15][16] The four-alarm fire started at 6:49 p.m. local time and was brought under control by 8:30 p.m.[17] employing more than 170 firefighters overall.[15][16][18]

There was one minor injury.[19]

The stone walls of the cathedral remain standing, and have been deemed to be structurally sound and not currently in danger of collapsing.[8][9] Church officials have indicated they will examine whether any part of the structure could be preserved.[20]

The parish house associated with the Chapel Complex was not harmed by fire.[21]


The cathedral in 2017
The cathedral in 2017

St. Sava parishioners reunited a few blocks away the first Sunday after the fire at Gramercy Park's Episcopal Calvary-St. George's Parish Church to worship.[22][23]

Church officials indicate there will be plans to rebuild at the current site.[22][23] Offers of support, including a letter from His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, have been shared with the parishioners of the church.[24]

Serbia's Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić indicated that the City of New York would be asked through diplomatic channels to aid in the rebuilding of the church. He also indicated Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić authorized him to say that the government will help rebuild the church, "because it has great significance for the Serbian community and the Serbian spirit in New York."[25]

As of two days after the fire, the definitive cause of the fire had not been determined. Candles that had not been properly extinguished after an Easter service were identified as a likely cause, according to a spokesperson of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY). A caretaker told fire marshals that he stowed the candles in a cardboard box under a piece of wooden furniture in a rear corner of the 161-year-old church.[26][27]

Nearly a month after the fire FDNY spokesman Frank Gribbon indicated conclusively that, "Fire marshals have ... determined that candles, which had not been completely extinguished, caused the fire."[28] It was reported that the city has ordered the remains of the church demolished, calling them unstable.[5] The Buildings Department quickly clarified that the inspection was not complete and they had not ordered the immediate demolition of the building.[6] In August 2016 the parish announced that the Building Department ordered metal beams be used to shore up the walls and the building be covered with a waterproof canvas to keep it from being damaged further by the elements. The parish announced they anticipate that effort to be completed in September 2016.[7]

In May of 2018 the parish filed a lawsuit against their insurer Church Mutual for $47M USD.[29] The insurer's payment was $12.7M USD based on the 1945 purchase price and subsequent improvements. The church claims that the payment did not account for present day rebuilding costs will be approximately $60M USD.[30] The parish and the insurer reached an undisclosed settlement in April 2019.[31] Installation of the new roof was completed in July 2019.[32]

See also


  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Dolkart, Andrew S.; Postal, Matthew A. (2009), Postal, Matthew A. (ed.), Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.), New York: John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1 p.80
  3. ^ a b c d White, Norval & Willensky, Elliot (2000), AIA Guide to New York City (4th ed.), New York: Three Rivers Press, ISBN 978-0-8129-3107-5 p.199
  4. ^ New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (April 18, 1968). "Serbian Orthodoc Cathedral of St. Sava and Clergy House and Parish House Designation Report" (PDF). Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Singla, Vinita; Gonen, Yoav; Perez, Chris (14 June 2016). "Scorched cathedral to be demolished over safety concerns". Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  6. ^ a b Dunlap, David W. (2016-06-14). "New York Serbian Church Gutted by Fire Won't Be Demolished, for Now". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-08-12.
  7. ^ a b "Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sava". Retrieved 2016-08-12.
  8. ^ a b c Ogorodnikov, Vitali (May 3, 2016). "Mourning the Landmark Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava, 15 West 25th Street, Gutted by Four-Alarm Blaze on Easter Day". New York YIMBY. Retrieved May 4, 2016.
  9. ^ a b Rosenberg, Zoe (2016-05-02). "Fire at Landmarked Flatiron Church Is Out, But Origin Remains Unclear". Curbed NY. Retrieved 2016-05-03.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Dunlap, David W. (2004). From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan's Houses of Worship. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-12543-7., p.244
  11. ^ a b Miller, Tom (2010-11-03). "Daytonian in Manhattan: Richard Upjohn's 1851 Trinity Chapel -- The Serbian Cathedral of St. Sava". Daytonian in Manhattan. Retrieved 2016-05-03.
  12. ^ a b c "History of the Cathedral of St. Sava in New York". Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  13. ^ King, Seth (September 5, 1966). "Bomb Damages Red Offices and a Cathedral Here -  Bomb Damages Red Offices and Cathedral Here" (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  14. ^ a b Kanno-Youngs, Zolan (2016-05-03). "Congregation Mourns Serbian Orthodox Church Destroyed by Fire". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2016-05-05.
  15. ^ a b Staff (May 1, 2016). "Huge blaze engulfs Serbian Orthodox Church in Manhattan on Easter Sunday". Russia Today. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  16. ^ a b Rosario, Frank; Sullivan, C.J.; Wilson, Tom & Perez, Chris (May 1, 2016). "Massive fire breaks out at Manhattan church". New York Post. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  17. ^ Kapp, Trevor; Cuilliton, Kathleen; Nichols, Adam & Gardiner, Aidan (May 2, 2016). "Massive Fire Rips Through Historic Serbian Orthodox Cathedral". DNAinfo New York. Archived from the original on November 9, 2017. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  18. ^ Mai, Andy & Annese, John (May 1, 2016). "Firefighters battle blaze at Manhattan church". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  19. ^ Associated Press (May 1, 2016). "Firefighters Contain Huge Fire at New York City Church". ABC News. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  20. ^ Cohen, Shawn & Perez, Chris (May 10, 2016). "Church head wants FBI to take over fire investigation". New York Post. Retrieved 2016-05-13.
  21. ^ Мишић, Милан. "Црква осигурана, али то неће надокнадити штету". Politika Online (in Serbian). Retrieved 2016-05-19.
  22. ^ a b "Manhattan Serbian Orthodox church holds first service since fire". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2016-05-13.
  23. ^ a b Remnick, Noah (2016-05-08). "After a Manhattan Church Is Destroyed in a Fire, Another Welcomes Its Members". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-05-13.
  24. ^ "Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sava". Retrieved 2016-05-13.
  25. ^ "Dacic tours Serbian church in NYC destroyed in Easter fire -  - on". Retrieved 2016-05-19.
  26. ^ Kilgannon, Corey (2016-05-03). "Candles May Have Caused Fire That Gutted Serbian Church, Officials Say". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-05-04.
  27. ^ Signore, John Del. "Some Fear "Apocalyptic" Manhattan Church Fire May Be Connected To Other Church Fires". Gothamist. Archived from the original on 2016-05-04. Retrieved 2016-05-04.
  28. ^ Cohen, Shawn & Perez, Chris (June 3, 2016). "Tragic cathedral fire sparked by Easter candles". New York Post. Retrieved 2016-06-07.
  29. ^ Rosenberg, Zoe (May 7, 2018). "Fire-ravaged Flatiron church files suit against insurer". Curbed New York. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  30. ^ Boniello, Kathianne (May 5, 2018). "Historic church destroyed in fire claims insurer shorted payout". New York Post. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  31. ^ Doherty, Jennifer (29 April 2019). "Rising from the Ashes". NY CITY Lens. Retrieved 29 August 2019.
  32. ^ "Nave roof completed! (July 13, 2019)". Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Eastern America. Retrieved August 31, 2019.

External links

This page was last edited on 26 September 2019, at 16:55
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