856 Pacific Street
Cornerstone laid: 1912
Dedicated: 3 May 1914
Architect: Francis J. Berlenbach
This was my second attempt to visit the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph. My first attempt, on Monday, 15 January, was foiled by the removal of Christmas decorations over the porch, which was blocked by a cherry picker and workers — Catholics clearly take their Christmas decorations seriously. But it was more than worth the second trip back.
To be honest, I didn’t even know St. Joseph’s existed until I started researching for this project. It turns out that it shares the designation of the seat — or cathedra, where we get the word “cathedral”, and it is a literal seat or throne — of the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn with the Cathedral Basilica of St. James in downtown Brooklyn. It received this designation in 2013, in the midst of a two-year restoration project completed in 2014, the current building’s 100th anniversary.
Most churches draw your eye upward — heavenward, in church parlance, and it’s intentional. But St. Joseph’s does so even more than most. Over the choir loft, for example, is a mural of American saints. It “depicts sixteen holy men and women, some canonized as saints, who have played a special role in the development of the Catholic faith in our country and our city,” according to a brochure available in the church. They are flanked by depictions of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Unisphere, symbols of Brooklyn and Queens, the boroughs of New York City forming the Diocese of Brooklyn.
But I was struck most of all by the Marian murals — a rather astounding 20 in all — in the rondels above the arcades on either side of the nave. These murals represent the Virgin Mary “as she is revered in different countries.” I was able to take photos of 18 of these murals, which are below. (I’ve also put them in a table that shows their relative positions in the church.)
[Update, 24 April 2018: I was able to take photos of the other two Marian murals.]
The historical appearance of these murals — the restoration also included the installation of two other murals on the rear wall of the nave — belies their recent creation, and they thoroughly complement the baroque and Renaissance revival style of the church. More importantly, they deeply root St. Joseph’s in its community and in this city and celebrate the diverse, multicultural background of parishioners and visitors alike.
Want to visit?
The Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph is open to worshipers and visitors seven days a week:
- Monday–Friday: 7.00am–6.00pm
- Saturday–Sunday: 8.00am–5.00pm
In the church you can pick up an excellent brochure on the church’s history and recent restoration. The brochure also provides a guide to the Marian murals, the stained-glass windows, and the mural of American saints above the choir loft.
Mass times are available on the church’s website, and it hosts concerts, organ recitals, performances, and other events throughout the year.
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