Architectural Analysis of St. Patrick’s Cathedral
(This entry was submitted on 11/23/98 for an art history class I took in college)
The feature of St. Patrick’s Cathedral that makes the greatest impact is its height. The cathedral can be described as very overwhelming and grand in scale. Most of the windows and several other openings are surrounded by large pointed arches. These vertical arches and the skeletal walls originated in Gothic culture. The impressive height and the pointed arches draw the eye upwards toward the sky. There is a large rose window situated above the arch that surrounds the main entrance. Three portals provide entrance to the cathedral and there is a smaller rose window above the center portal
Next to the stairs which lead to the portals is a wide platform which supports the cathedral and separates it from the sidewalk. The entire structure is elevated by the platform and the stairs. Small, golden status of saints are sculpted within the main portal. All of the names of the saints are also written in gold lettering. Above the center entrance and within its arch is a depiction of Jesus. He is surrounded by his apostles or saints who are bowed down to worship Him. Jesus makes a sign of benediction to all who enter the cathedral. Jesus appears to be welcoming people to come inside. On both sides of the center portal there are large statues. One is a statue of Mary and the other is a saint. These two statues are the same color as the rest of the cathedral and are made of stone. At the top of the cathedral are two towers that are both topped with crosses.
People can enter by walking through either of the side portals. First, there is a small room with a side door that allows entrance into the actual cathedral. The most striking feature of the interior is the vastness of space and the feeling of utter weightlessness. The cathedral seems endless as it stretches toward the altar. The interior is majestic, tall and impressive. The weightless, airy feel and the rose window remind me of the Notre Dame Cathedral. There are compound piers on both sides of the pews. The tops of the columns are joined by pointed arches. There are three pointed arches behind the alter that symbolize the Holy Trinity. Large, stain glassed windows line the walls on both sides of the cathedral. The main color shown in the stained glass is blue.
Groin vaults support the immense ceiling. There is one main room in the cathedral and numerous alcoves on either side. The nave is very wide and the altar is clearly visible from the back of the cathedral. As soon as you enter, you are compelled to walk toward the altar. There are two exit doorways beside the altar. The doorways are surrounded by relief sculptures of saints. Some of the saints lean out and away from the wall. They appear to watch over the congregation and give signs of benediction. An ambulatory is behind the altar where candles can be lit.
Not much daylight enters through the stained glass windows. The light source is many small lamps that are suspended from the ceiling. These lamps also light the alcoves. The dimness of the interior lends a mystical quality to the space. The alcoves along the sides of the cathedral are also topped with groin vaults. Some of them contain steps leading to private chapels or statues of saints. These steps and figures welcome you to light a candle or enter the confessionals.
The overall feeling is that a person is not so much insignificant, but guided by a greater, more powerful source. Those who enter the cathedral feel covered in the majesty of God. The airy, open, and majestic space allows the music to reverberate which adds to the spirituality. One is immediately overcome by the beauty of the cathedral and the protectiveness provided within its graceful walls. The grandness of the structure can increase the faith of the congregation in a God who created all life. The cathedral is beautiful, peaceful, and welcoming.
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