Beyond Broadway at 61st: St. Thomas Fifth Avenue

Every week, Art, the Bible & the Big Apple will feature a New York City site with interesting biblical art that we think is worth a look. Whether uptown, downtown, across town, or in the boroughs, we’ll explore art in context, from well-known landmarks to buildings tucked away on quiet blocks. Visit New York’s hidden gems with us, see some old friends, and maybe discover some new ones.

The very first congregation of St. Thomas Episcopal Church gathered in a room at the corner of Broome Street and Broadway in 1823.  That is a far cry from the neo-Gothic structure on Fifth Avenue, across the street from Fendi, just a few blocks from Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  The current church is the parish’s fourth, consecrated in 1916 and designed by Ralph Adams Cram.  It is a staggeringly beautiful building that is well worth a walk-through in between food, sightseeing, and shopping breaks in Midtown.

A visitor will at first be drawn inside by the jamb figures lining the western portal, reminiscent of medieval times, a stark contrast to the atmosphere on the street.  Once side, there is much for the eyes to feast upon, but the instant draw is the massive choir screen behind the altar.  Festooned with saints huddled vertically around a gold cross, it is by far the most commanding thing in the room, but it not the only piece of artwork worth noting, as one of St. Thomas’s tour guides will tell you.  The stained-glass windows, like the small aisle window that depicts the Annunciation, add deep hues to the shadowy space, and the rendering of St. Michael fighting Satan, depicted as a dragon, over one of the archways, is an understated but impressive work.  St. Thomas gives off a Gothic glamour that should be seen by locals and tourists alike.

St. Thomas is located on Fifth Avenue between 53rd and 54th Streets.

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