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Sacred Spaces: New York

Brooklyn Bridge: (Credit: Sophia Posnock)

Brooklyn Bridge: (Credit: Sophia Posnock)

In this densely populated city, we found a rich diversity of sacred space, which gave us a sense of quiet and otherworldliness. Our real problem was how to pare down our list. After a long process, we narrowed our field to the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn and focused on less traveled and possibly underappreciated sites. We hope this guide helps you discover sacred spaces you never thought of entering, or even knew about -- whether you are a long-time resident of the city or a new arrival.

We were awed by the grand series of magnificent cathedrals and cathedral-like spaces lining Fifth Avenue. Many were under a process of extensive renovation, unfortunate timing for this edition of our guide. Since most of these spaces have been featured before and are readily accessible for visitors, we chose sites more off the beaten track. We selected St. Malachy's -- The Actor's Church, which ministers to Broadway actors and stage professionals. Instead of St. Patrick's Cathedral, we chose architect James Renwick's first building, Grace Church on Broadway. Instead of Temple Emanu-El, we chose Central Synagogue and The East End Temple.

The Brotherhood Synagogue in Gramercy Square, formerly a Quaker Meeting House, seemed shyly inaccessible, tucked away behind an ironwork gate. Our visit there revealed a community actualizing a legacy of interfaith outreach and social justice instigated by their Quaker predecessors, who built a passage connecting the building with the Underground Railroad beneath Gramercy Park. This connection is also apparent in the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn -- whose abolitionist history assisted in the creation of the Emancipation Proclamation.

In addition, we bring your attention to sites that are civic in nature. The Brooklyn Bridge is a marvel of engineering and a testament to human creativity. We believe it embodies a sense of the sacred, in keeping with its designers' vision. We hope that our selections cause you to have further conversation about sacred space and encourage you to find yours in New York City.

Deirdre Colgan
Executive Director, Sacred Space International
Chicago, 2010

St. Peter's Church: (Credit: Deirdre Colgan)

St. Peter's Church: (Credit: Deirdre Colgan)

Download the New York City Sacred Spaces Guide
The guide includes maps and three suggested tour routes. The following Sacred Spaces are featured:
• African Burial Ground National Monument
• Bethesda Fountain in Central Park
• Brooklyn Bridge
• Brotherhood Synagogue
• Central Synagogue
• East End Temple
• Fort Greene Park & Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument
• Grace Church
• Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church
• Islamic Cultural Center of New York (ICCNY)
• St. Ann & The Holy Trinity Church
• St. Malachy's -- The Actor's Chapel
• St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral
• St. Peter's Church

Download the New York City guide here (PDF).

Tell us about your experience on the tour or your favorite Sacred Space in New York City. Create a page in the God in America Faithbook or submit a video to WGBH Lab's Open Call, or leave us a comment below.

About Sacred Space International
Sacred Space International was founded in 2002 by Suzanne Morgan to promote interfaith education and dialogue through the understanding of religious architecture. Morgan, a retired architect with expertise in liturgical design, started the organization in response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent climate of social tension, cultural misunderstanding and fear. She conceived the idea of religious architecture as a catalyst for interfaith dialogue and education. Without promoting any single faith or tradition, the organization seeks to use the common language of architecture as an educational means to foster reciprocal respect, awareness and appreciation of the different traditions that comprise our pluralistic society.

Visit Sacred Space International's website for more information.


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Published October 11, 2010

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