The Church of St. Francis of Assisi is a colorfully ornate example of Gothic Revival – more colorful than what we’re accustomed to in sacred architecture. The mosaics on the outside are just a hint of what you’ll find inside – the upper church contains what was once said to be the largest mosaic in the United States, “The Glorification of the Mother of Jesus” (1925).
The church has a colorful history, too. It was created as the result of a dispute between the Bishop of New York and trustees of the nearby church St. John the Baptist. The pastor, Father Zachary Kunz, petitioned the Bishop to open a new church, and St. Francis of Assisi was the result.
Alas, the church became a “parish without parishioners” as working class residents moved out of the neighborhood in the late 1800s-early 1900s. That’s the period of time when the district became known as “The Tenderloin.” The Franciscan Friars who ran the church began ministering to people who worked, rather than lived, in the neighborhood. This meant celebrating Mass throughout the day and night, among other things. Of more recent historical note, Fr. Mychal Judge, O.F.M., a chaplain of the New York Fire Department, died at the World Trade Center South Tower on Sept. 11, 2001. Father Mychal became the first officially recorded fatality following the terrorist attack.
Church of St. Francis of Assisi Vital Statistics
- Location: 135 W 31st Street
- Year completed: 1892
- Architect: Henry Erhardt
- Style: Gothic Revival
Church of St. Francis of Assisi Suggested Reading
- Wikipedia entry
- From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan’s Houses of Worship (Google Books)
- Church of St. Francis of Assisi website
- Church virtual tour