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St. Thomas Church

Fifth Avenue

by
Gary Reznik

reznik13.jpg (31393 bytes)

Saint Thomas Church, located on 53rd street and 5th avenue, is an Episcopalian establishment built around 1913. The Episcopal Church is the American branch of the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion consists of both Catholic and Apostolic traditions dating back from Christ, based in the Church of England. The Episcopal Church came into existence independently after the American Revolution. Today it has between two and three million members in the U.S., Mexico, and Central America, all of which are under the jurisdiction of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Edmond Browning.

Though Episcopal churches are built in many architectural styles, Saint Thomas is a prime example of Gothic architecture. Gothic is the form of architecture used in Western Europe in the late medieval period roughly between 1150 A.D. and 1550 A.D. Specific needs in places of worship originated from the religious beliefs and customs. These needs were basically those of the Romanesque church and included space for the worshipers, for the participating clergy, for the ceremony of the Mass, for altars dedicated to various saints, for baptismal rites, and for processionals. The arrangement of space for these purposes was similar to that developed during the early medieval period- a long central rectangle oriented to the east and flanked by aisles, usually crossed by another rectangle, the transept. The nave made up the western part of thc first rectangle; the choir and sanctuary, or apse, the eastern part. The moldings of the doorways were supported by slender columns combined with figures of saints and angels.

A church on this site was originally constructed in 1866. It was destroyed in a huge fire in 1905, and redesigned by Ralph Adams Cram and Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue of the firm of Cram, Goodhue, and Ferguson in 1911. The church did not officially reopen until 1913 for service.

Today St. Thomas is famous for its boys choir. It is the only New York church with an English style choir school, and as such it attracts many visitors each Sunday purely for the aesthetic experience. Along with Trinity Church on Wall St., it is famed has having one of the wealthiest congregations in the United States.

 

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