Ten most beautiful churches

  • St. Anthony

  • Altar

  • Baptismal Font

  • Outside

St. Anthony

1. St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral
Denomination: Roman Catholic
This bad boy is turning 200 years old Sunday 7, and we think it’s deserving of some serious celebrations. Walking into St. Patrick’s feels a little like arriving at Heaven’s reception desk, and your first impulse might be to turn and run to avoid Final Judgment. Instead, just look up. The tallest point, at the inner vault, is 85 feet high; and the whole cathedral, from spans over 120 feet from front to back. St. Pat’s was also first Cathedral Church in New York, and hosted the city’s first Bishop, Rev. Luke Concanen. 263 Mulberry Street at Prince St (212-226 8075, oldcathedral.org)

2. Church of St. Anthony of Padua
Denomination: Roman Catholic
If St. Patrick’s is where the Irish hang, this church is home to the Italians. Which can get overlooked, considering how tourist-heavy nearby Little Italy has become in recent years. But forget about bad cannoli (if that’s what you’re after, Bensonhurst’s St. Athanasius might be a better plan) and ubiquitous fannypacks, and focus on the marble altar, stained glass windows, smoky incense. 155 Sullivan Street at West Houston Street (212-777-2755, stanthonynyc.org)

3. Corpus Christi Church
Denomination: Catholic
When you find yourself up near Columbia University, skip the gothic allure of St. John the Divine and wander through the little red door of this hidden gem. The outside may look unassuming, but the interior is a cross between an American Colonial house and the Medici Palazzo in the best possible way. Sunday afternoons at 4pm, the thirty-year-old concert series “Music Before 1800” serenades the masses. But wait, it gets better! Stop by on Saturday 6 for a flea market to benefit the parish. 529 W 121st St between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave (212-666-9350, corpus-christi-nyc.org)

4. St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church
Denomination: Roman Catholic
Every December, this Bensonhurst community church boasts a nativity scene of over three hundred figures. During the rest of the year, though, be content to simply bask in the serene, blueish glow inside. Masses are frequently read in Spanish, Italian, Korean and Polish, and after the service you can check St. Athanasius’ Parish Bazaar and Festival daily from 7pm--11pm Wednesday 10 through June 15. On June 13, there will be a procession through the streets with a veneration of the church relic. 2154 61st Street between 21st Ave and Bay Pkwy (718-236-0124, stathanasiusny.tripod.com)

5. Church of St. Michael
Denomination: Episcopal
An inscription over the altar at St. Michael’s reads: “Lamb of God who takest away the sinners of the world grant us peace.” Peace is one thing almost always lacking in this part of town, but St. Michael’s is a champion of quiet. Gazing upon a statue of the saint, you even feel protected: Wielding a golden sword as he steps on Lucifer’s squashed head, Michael is not the archangel you want to mess with (in 2008, the statue was swiped from its pedestal by an unknown thief: only to be found hours later in a parking lot on 33rd Street). “It’s not as big as St. Peter’s on 5th Ave, but it is more classic,” says churchgoer Raisa, who works next door at the Skylight Diner. 424 West 34th St at Dyer Ave (212-563-2575, stmichaelnyc.com)

6. First Hungarian Reformed Church
Denomination: Reformed Church
Sermons at the 93-year-old First Hungarian Reformed Church are given solely in Hungarian; though no fluency is required to enjoy the refreshments, served downstairs every Sunday after mass. The church—complete with 80-foot bell tower—was designed by Emery Roth, who is usually known for his residential commissions; in 2000, it received a listing in the National Register of Historic Places. 344 E 69th St btw 1st and 2nd Aves (212-734-5252)

7. Church of St. Vincent Ferrer
Denomination: Roman Catholic
Dominican Friars run this “little cathedral” on the Upper East Side, which parish-worker Yvonne from Ireland calls “beautiful—out of this world!” What St. Vincent Ferrer has going for it is history. Due to their popularity, the city asked the Dominican Order to set up shop here in the 1860s. It was also the first church to incorporate Guastavino’s Tile Arch System, which gives the acoustics of the space a mystical effect (the technique is also used in Grand Central Terminal, Carnegie Hall and the City Hall subway station). The whole thing cost $1.5 million to complete in 1928. Yup, sounds like the Upper East Side to us. 869 Lexington Ave at E 66th St (212-744-2080, csvf.org)

8. St. Teresa of Avila Church
This 135-year-old Crown Heights church, founded by Irish settlers in the 1870’s, is one of the oldest in Brooklyn, and was designed by renowned architect Patrick Keely. Each of the fourteen bells in the tower is christened after an Irish saint. Naturally, St. Teresa is the largest of them all, measuring 6 feet high and 5 feet across the base. But you won’t be peeping that bell anytime soon. Tamount of pigeon poop that has accumulated in the tower is “basically toxic” according to Father Ahern, a former pastor. So it goes. 563 Sterling Place at Classon Ave (718- 622-6500)

9. Church of St. Joseph
Denomination: Roman Catholic
The 1861 dedication of St. Joseph’s drew a crowd of 3,000, each paying 50 cents to witness the scene. These days, the place could technically use a little work, but the whole abandoned, overgrown spookiness is also one of St. Joseph’s biggest charms. Check out the cemetery to the east of the church, full of mossy graves and weepy-looking statues—it feels like Edward Scissorhands could pop out at any moment. And on a hot summer night with a full moon, who’s to say he wont? We recommend coming here with a bottle of wine and a date. Don’t get too friendly, though— this is holyground, after all. 862 Manhattan Ave at Kent St (718-383-3339, stanthonyalphonsus.com)

10. Church of St. Anthony--St. Alphonsus
Denomination: Roman Catholic
When you walk down Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, two things are impossible to miss: one is the unfortunate reincarnation of the American Theater as a Starbucks, the other is the Church of St. Anthony--St. Alphonsus. Towering over the bakeries and meat markets, this red and white brick church (also designed by Patrick Keely) is the focal point for all local Catholics. But that’s not just because it looks like a gingerbread house. Reverend Robert Czok, who has been with the parish for ten years, explained that because St. Anthony--St. Alphonsus is the territorial parish, any Catholic within its district is automatically a member. Whether they like it or not. 856 Pacific St at Vanderbilt Ave (718-783-4500)

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