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Colorful ribbons in front of a large stained glass windows.
Photograph: Courtesy of Divine Pathways

16 miles of colorful ribbons now cascade from world's largest Gothic cathedral in NYC

Walk beneath a dazzling field of ribbons.

Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Written by
Rossilynne Skena Culgan

The vibrant, ornate stained glass windows inside Manhattan's historic churches always create a dazzling spectacle. But now, a new long-term art display inspired by those rich colors has unfurled inside the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights—the world's largest Gothic cathedral

Titled "Divine Pathways," the monumental art installation is made up of more than 1,100 lengths of blue, red and gold fabric. Each ribbon measures 75 feet in length (approximately seven stories high). Combined, they are almost 16 miles long—that's longer than the island of Manhattan! 

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Artist Anne Patterson created this monumental textile work. She drew inspiration from the hues of the existing stained glass windows—ruby reds, ocean blues and glimmering golds. As light streams through the windows, it illuminates not just the glass but the ribbons cascading from the ceiling as well.

Ribbons hang down in a church.
Photograph: Courtesy of Divine Pathways

The piece naturally encourages visitors to look up and notice the shadows within the cathedral as well as the vaulted arches of the cathedral. Visitors can now admire the elegant architectural details throughout the interior, newly revealed after years of restoration and cleaning. 

The beautiful artwork is also a feat of engineering. The ribbons are hung on a 120-foot by 30-foot aluminum truss frame and suspended approximately 90 feet above the floor of the nave of the cathedral. Steel cables extend through holes in the ceiling all the way up to the cathedral’s forêt (upper attic space) to support the structure. The site-specific piece is the largest the Brooklyn-based textile artist has created yet, joining her roster of stunning pieces.

Ribbons hang in a church with stained glass windows behind them.
Photograph: Courtesy of Divine Pathways

Each of the ribbons also speaks to the deepest hopes and thoughts of the local community. Anyone is invited to literally write themselves into the work by scrawling their hopes, dreams and prayers onto the ribbons. Public programs and workshops will offer visitors the opportunity to add their inmost dreams and aspirations to the piece. Upcoming programs include photography sessions, Mindfulness Mondays, and Triforium Climbs. Register here.

"Individual prayers will be anonymous and beyond the viewer's sight, but their collective presence will create an experience both intimate and immense, celebrating the collaborative process and community itself," the church said in a press release.

The Cathedral of Saint John The Divine - exterior view.
Photograph: By agsaz / Shutterstock | The Cathedral of Saint John The Divine

About Cathedral of St. John the Divine

With construction beginning in 1892, the Morningside Heights cathedral dates back more than 125 years. St. John is the largest cathedral in the world, meaning a church that is also the seat of a Bishop. Measured by length or internal volume, it is one of the five largest church buildings in the world.

St. John the Divine is an Episcopal church with daily and Sunday worship services. It's also open daily for self-guided sightseeing with a $15/adult admission fee; timed tickets are recommended. You can also schedule a private tour of the tour by contacting 212.932.7347 or

See "Divine Pathways" at  St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights at 1047 Amsterdam Avenue (at 112th St.) through June 2024. 

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