The Cathedral

Designed in three phases by architects Heins & LaFarge, Ralph Adams Cram and Bell Towers and Restoration, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is chartered as a sanctuary for all people and a unifying center of intellectual light and leadership. It serves the many diverse people of our Diocese, City, Nation and World through an array of liturgical, cultural and civic events; pastoral, educational and community outreach activities; and maintains the preservation of the great architectural and historic site that is its legacy. The Cathedral is more than 120 years old and is the largest in North America.

Take Me to the Cathedral

After the purchase of the property in 1887, over 60 prominent architectural firms were invited to participate in a design competition for the new building. The New York firm of Heins and LaFarge, selected in 1891, presented an eclectic Romanesque design and construction began one year later. The initial building phase, which took nearly 10 years, completed the eastern portion of the building up to the dome and transept crossing.

In 1907 a new architect, Ralph Adams Cram was appointed to the project. Cram’s Gothic design seen on the nave and west façade took nearly 20 years to complete with the first services held December 6, 1941. Construction on the Cathedral ended until the 1970’s when a stonemasonry training program was created and a production facility constructed on the north site along 113th Street where Enclave stands today. Over the next 20 years “student craftsmen” added 50 feet of newly carved stonework to the Cathedral’s south tower. The Cathedral has since seen no further new construction, and now focuses on preserving and maintaining the existing structure. At present, the North Transept is being stabilized and covered with a roof structure to ready it for the next generation of restoration.

“St. John the Divine is one of the city's great marvels, with its immense neo-Gothic nave by Ralph Adams Cram.” — The New York Times


The Cathedral draws on strong architectural traditions and symbolism, which were intended, whether 1,000 or 100 years ago, to affect a visitor’s experience. The Cathedral follows several major medieval traditions: it is built on high ground—Morningside Heights is at one of the highest natural elevations in New York City—and its ground footprint is (in design, at least) shaped like a Roman cross.

The Duke

Throughout his career, legendary composer and musician Duke Ellington maintained a long-standing relationship with the Cathedral. It was the site of the premiere of the Second Sacred Concert of his original sacred music compositions in 1968. Several pianos are still housed on the premises. The Cathedral continues his legacy, regularly hosting concerts.