Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava, Manhattan



Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava, Manhattan. Image 1

Gracing Manhattan's historic Chelsea District, the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava is a splendid example of Gothic Revival architecture. The former Trinity Chapel and the then uptown branch of Trinity Church on Wall Street was designed in 1851 by the celebrated architect Richard M. Upjohn. It served local Episcopalians for the next 92 years, including the renowned author Edith Wharton, who not only was married in the Chapel, but who also immortalized the milieu and the church in The Age of Innocence, her classic novel of Victorian New York Life.

For nearly a century and a half, this magnificent church has housed many remarkable artworks designed by Upjohn. These include stained glass windows (some in perilously delicate condition), an exquisite stained glass rosette window, intricately carved interior fretwork, and the beautifully designed inlaid tile floor. Other artworks in the church include fourteen large-scale religious painting by Rachel Richardson which adorn the niches along the main walls of the nave. Unusual examples of polychrome decorative painting surround the altar area, and an impressive, hand-carved wooden pulpit with superb religious carvings complete the treasure trove of divine artistry.

Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava, Manhattan. Image 2

Around the turn of the century, the neighborhood began to change as local residents moved to more fashionable areas. Slowly but irrevocably, what was once uptown became midtown. Despite noble efforts to revitalize the parish, Trinity Church opted to sell Trinity Chapel in the early 1940's. In 1943, the decision was made in favor of the small but dynamic Serbian congregation, and the fortuitous Serbian people became the proud owners of this stately church.

On June 11, 1944, Trinity Chapel was formally consecrated as the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava. It was the first Serbian Orthodox Church on the East Coast, thus becoming the gateway church and spiritual center for the Serbian people, visiting dignitaries, and other Orthodox Christians.

Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava, Manhattan. Image 3

In keeping with Orthodox church architectural tradition, a large Iconostasis (altar screen), carved at the Monastery of St. Naum in Yugoslavia, and containing 40 richly painted icons, was installed. Outside, a round mosaic of St. Sava, Patron Saint of the Serbian people and most honored namesake of the Cathedral, was placed about the exterior center doors, adding a Byzantine note to the imposing Gothic facade, and completing this unique synthesis of two great traditions.

The Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava is distinguished as a landmark building by the National Register of Historic Places, U.S Department of the Interior, and the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.

based on NYC AGO page
Contact info:
20 West 26th Street,
New York, NY 10010