Register of Historic Places
An Artistic and Symbolic Description
Robert James Wister, Hist.Eccl.D.
The Gothic Revival
St. Patrick’s Pro-Cathedral, built in 1850, at the height of the American Gothic Revival, is an excellent example of the simpler versions of the style. This simplicity is reflected in the choice of exterior material, brick rather than stone, and the lack of spatial complexity in the interior plan. A straightforward nave and aisle scheme, the church has side aisles terminating in delicately detailed apses. The nave, the central space of the building, resolves its arcaded progress in a columned multifaceted full-height apse.
The architectural details are typical of the period and style, in not being exact copies but highly stylized and freely interpreted renditions. The vaulting of the ceiling, highlighted by the recent repainting, is a fine example of German Gothic with its cats- cradle of ribbing and heavily foliated, newly gilded, bosses. Bosses began as a decorative trick to cover up the inelegant intersections of multiple ribs and ultimately developed, as here, into important architectural details.
The other important element in the architectural program for the pro-cathedral is the Gothic tracery of the windows. Unlike most examples of Gothic Revival, the designer of the church did not select one simple form for the lacey stone work at the tops of the windows, rather he chose to use multiple examples from the pattern books he referenced, making for an interesting catalogue of Gothic forms.
Note should also be made of the original altar furniture still in place. The High Altar, a greatly diminished remnant of its original glory, is deeply carved with high style Gothic details, emphasized by the new color scheme that picks out these details. The credence table, to the right of the altar, echoes the details and finish of the pro-cathedral masterpiece, the John Jelliff Cathedra, the Episcopal Throne. This black walnut architectural fantasy, by the prominent Newark furniture-maker, is one of the finest extant examples of the nineteenth century carver’s art.
The latest renovation of this venerable seat of the Church in Newark has highlighted and enhanced the architecture of the pro-cathedral.
The structural bones of the building, the ribs of the vaulting, the arches of the nave, the tracery of the windows, all have been emphasized by the dark stone color contrasting with the light stone color of the vaulting and walls. The marbleizing of the semi-attached columns of the aisles and the clustered columns of the nave enhance the vertical thrust of the interior.
The focal point of the new interior program is the chancel apse, the sanctuary of the church. Here the decoration, both old and new, is more elaborate; the moldings are gilded and patterned.
There also are murals, depicting the escutcheons of the first five bishops of the Church in Newark. These have been cleaned and brightened. The columns of the upper register have been marbleized in verde antiqua, a green marble, while the clustered columns of the blind arcade below have been marbleized in red brown marble. These are bracketed by columns marbleized to match those of the nave, thus visually integrating the two spaces. The walls between these column clusters have been given a stone patterning that replicates the original wall treatment of the 1850’s, as revealed by the restoration. The vaulting of the sanctuary has been painted midnight blue with gold stars, representing the vault of heaven.
This color scheme employs the colors of the liturgical year — green, red, blue, gold and white, which is found in the marble of the new altar and reredos.
The new altar in white and green marble with red and gold accents is the focus of the revived sanctuary. Behind the new altar, atop the antique Gothic altar, is a new marble reredos, a stylized reinterpretation of the original, with its Gothic arches and green columnettes capped with carved antique capitals. The new reredos serves as a backdrop for the church’s new tabernacle and the beautiful bronze crucifix mounted above.
-John M. Pierce, Interior Design Consultant
The design of St. Patrick’s is often credited to Rev. Patrick Moran, pastor of St. John’s Church on Mulberry Street in Newark, who was said to have an art and architectural background. Moran is credited with designing various alterations and additions to St. John’s.
Several scholars disagree. It was the opinion of Donald Geyer, Newark City Planner and architectural historian, that Brooklyn’s famous ecclesiastical architect, Patrick Charles Keely, may have collaborated with Moran. Geyer based his claim on an illustration of the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul completed in 1848 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that appears in a biography of Keely by architect Francis Kerwick. The church bears a striking resemblance to St. Patrick’s.
Of the cathedrals credited to Keely by Kerwick, Geyer lists “Newark, N.J., Saint Patrick,” as well as St. John the Baptist in Paterson. Among Keely’s parish churches in New Jersey, Kerwick names St. Patrick, St. Michael and St. Bridget in Jersey City and St. Peter in New Brunswick. James F. Johnson agrees with Geyer and wrote that “it was through the kind interest of Father Patrick Moran that Mr. Keeley (sic) obtained the Newark work which secured for him the drawing up of a design for St. Patrick’s.”
Although Moran had designed extensive alterations to St. John’s, it is difficult to imagine that a plan as complex as St. Patrick’s could have come from anyone other than a professional architect. It seems likely that Keely drew up the plans, incorporating suggestions from Moran.
Length — 130 feet
Width — 70 feet
Height — 60 feet
Spire — 200 feet, topped with a cross
Perhaps the most spectacular feature of St. Patrick’s is the bishop’s chair. According to church tradition, early bishops preached and taught, not from a pulpit, but from a chair in the sanctuary of the church. The Latin word for chair is “cathedra.” Because of the presence of the chair, a bishop’s principal church is called a cathedral. In the nineteenth and preceding centuries, the bishop’s chair took on the appearance of a royal throne. Few monarchs can claim a throne as glorious as the cathedra in St. Patrick’s Pro-Cathedral. Designed and executed by John Jelliff, Newark’s most important furniture, chair and cabinetmaker of the last half of the nineteenth century, the achievement is spectacular. “It is made of black walnut, gracefully carved, and extends upward of 20 feet, where it projects forward about six feet and culminates in pinnacle shape at the height of about 25 feet…Various devices of a religious and ornamental character, including a representation of two angels under the projection above, are ingeniously carved upon it.” Interestingly, what appears to be the throne is actually a great canopy. The chair itself is small, low-backed, and uncomfortable. In the center of the canopy is a circular panel displaying the coat of arms of Most Rev. Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop of Newark.
Several canceled checks payable to Jelliff in the Archives of the Archdiocese of Newark at Seton Hall University indicate the cost. The checks are for $68.00, $919.25, $177.00, and $43.25. Jelliff also designed the cover of the baptismal font, so some of these payments may reflect that as well. This cover now serves as a canopy over the tabernacle in the chapel. More than likely, the credence table in the sanctuary is also by Jelliff.
The Nave Windows
The windows of St. Patrick’s, with the exception of those in the sacristy, the vestibule and the transoms, were installed in 1925 and, according to newspaper records, made in The Netherlands.
Beginning on the right aisle facing the sanctuary, starting at the sanctuary, and going to the rear of the church, the windows follow the Gospel account of the life of Christ and the events of the redemption.
The windows are typical of the Gothic Revival of the nineteenth century, which reproduced the style of European cathedrals and churches of the Middle Ages, the eleventh to fifteenth centuries. Each consists of a white frame that replicates in glass a stone or marble gothic window frame. The portrait often includes another window looking out on a landscape scene.
The portraitists of the Middle Ages did not have an “historical sense” in that they did not know how people would have dressed at the time of Christ. The dress and accoutrements are medieval and are not meant to represent clothing of the time of Christ. The persons depicted are likewise very European in appearance. You will note that in many of the windows the children often are blond. The average Judean two thousand years ago was not blond. We should not be surprised at this. It is a very human desire to be like those we venerate.
examine these windows note the golden candle sconces and crosses on the
walls. These twelve candles may only be displayed in a church that
has been formally consecrated. They
are lit on the anniversary of the consecration of the church. St.
Patrick’s was consecrated on March 17, 1875.
This is the only window in the church with a dedicatory inscription. It reads: “In Memory of the Dead of the Parish — R.I.P.” The letters “R.I.P.” are the abbreviation of the Latin Requiescant in Pace, “May they rest in peace.’
Presentation in the Temple
The Wedding at
Jesus and the
Symbols of the
MATTHAEUS - St. Matthew is represented by a young man with a halo. In our window he is winged and appears to be an angel. This is drawn from the opening of Matthew’s Gospel, which begins with the genealogy of Jesus. Matthew’s use of this human genealogy demonstrates the humanity of Jesus.
JOHANNES - St. John is represented by an eagle with a halo. The Gospel of John soars like an eagle as its opening verses proclaim Jesus to be the Word of God.
Moving across the rear of the church to the left aisle we continue.
MARCUS - St. Mark is represented by a lion, also winged and with a halo. In the Gospel of Mark the preaching of John the Baptist is portrayed as a voice crying, almost roaring, in the desert, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”
LUCAS - St. Luke is represented by a winged bull with a halo. After his preface, Luke mentions the priestly office of Zechariah. Since the calf or bull in the Old Testament was a sacrificial animal for the priest, this image is applied to the Gospel of Luke.
The series now moves to the events of Holy Week.
The Agony in
We now move toward the sanctuary and examine the windows above the altar. Above the sanctuary are five stained glass windows.
To follow the story chronologically we must first look at the center window. This is the place of honor and it depicts the most important event of the Redemption. We then alternate going from right to left.
Resurrection - Center
Appearance of Christ after the Resurrection
Left of Center
Assumption of Mary - Far Right
Mary as Queen of Heaven
The Raggi Sanctuary Murals
Gonippo Raggi, born in Rome, Italy, in 1875, studied at the Art Institute of S. Michele in Rome. He came to the United States in 1904 at the invitation of Papal Marquis Martin Maloney to supervise the decoration of St. Catherine’s Memorial Church in Spring Lake, NJ. Maloney had erected the church as a memorial to his daughter, Catherine. Raggi drew the attention of Rt. Rev. Thomas J. Walsh, then Bishop of Trenton. When Walsh became Bishop of Newark, he encouraged Raggi to continue his work in the Newark diocese. Raggi was internationally acclaimed as a portraitist and ecclesiastical artist. He provided murals for many churches and church institutions in the United States and supervised the decoration of the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. He died in 1959.
Many of the murals Raggi executed for St. Patrick’s are no longer in place. Painted on canvas and held by adhesive to the walls, they succumbed to damage from water and from time.
Some, however, remain. Along the lower wall of the sanctuary are Raggi’s paintings of angels kneeling on either side of the coats of arms of the first five bishops of Newark. They were completed in 1929.
From left to right are the coats of arms of:
Bishop James Roosevelt
Michael Augustine Corrigan
Bishop John O’Connor
Thomas J. Walsh
The coats of arms of Archbishops Bayley and Corrigan have ten tassels on either side of the green prelatial hat. The crosses have two bars. These indicate their status as archbishops.
The coats of arms of Bishops Wigger and O’Connor have six tassels and their crosses have one bar. These indicate their status as bishops. For an unknown reason, perhaps chemical changes in the paint, the hat over Bishop O’Connor’s coat of arms is reddish in color, rather than the proper green for bishops and archbishops.
The Walsh coat of arms was originally painted as that of a bishop with six tassels and a cross with one bar, proper for a bishop. When he became archbishop in 1938 it was altered and four tassels added. However, the artist forgot to double the bar, producing a hybrid coat of arms.
Beneath each coat of arms is a motto on a scroll. The mottoes are in Latin. The motto of Bishop O'Connor was Sapientia Desursum, “Wisdom from above.” Raggi mistakenly painted Sapienza, the Italian word for wisdom, rather than Sapientia, the proper Latin word.
The Raggi Nave Paintings
Above the arches of the bays, on either side of the arch, are paintings of Old and New Testament figures and Doctors of the Church. They are on canvas and fastened to the wall. Originally there was much blue, green and gold decorative design around them, filling the entire space between the arches and the clerestory windows. The spelling of the names is an interesting mixture of Latin and Italian, reflecting the painter’s Italian origin.
From front to back there are four Patriarchs, four Prophets, four Evangelists, ten Apostles (two of the evangelists were also apostles), and four Doctors of the Latin or Western Church. The grouping represents the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Church.
Beginning on the right side, proceeding from the sanctuary to the rear of the church, and then returning up the left side to the sanctuary, they are:
Patriarch Abramo [Abraham]
Patriarch Noe [Noah]
Prophet Elia [Elijah, Elias]
Prophet Isaia [Isaiah, Isaias]
Saint Marcus [Mark] Evangelist
Saint Lucas [Luke] Evangelist
Saint Paulus [Paul] Apostle
Saint Andreas [Andrew] Apostle
Saint Bartholomeus [Bartholomew] Apostle
Saint Jacobus Maj [James the Greater, the Elder] Apostle
Saint Simon [Simon] Apostle
Saint Greg Mag [Gregory the Great] Doctor
Saint Agustinus [Augustine] Doctor
Saint Ambrosio [Ambrose] Doctor
Saint Girolomo [Jerome] Doctor
Saint Thaddeus Apostle
Saint Thomas Apostle
Saint Phillipus [Philip] Apostle
Saint Jacobus Min [James the
Lesser, the Younger]
Saint Petrus [Peter] Apostle
Saint Joannes [John] Evangelist
Saint Matteus [Matthew] Evangelist
Prophet Mose [Moses]
Patriarch Isac [Isaac]
The Clerestory Windows
The upper, or clerestory windows, are of translucent glass with various symbols in stained glass. Like the nave windows, they were made in The Netherlands and installed in 1925. The symbols do not appear to follow any particular plan.
Beginning on the right side of the church facing the sanctuary and proceeding toward the rear, the windows are as follows:
The Tree of
Fountain with Seven Spouts
Anchor and Sun
Sponge, Cross with White Cloth
City on a Hill
Continuing from the rear of the church up the left aisle.
the Ten Commandments
and Pliers Surrounded by Crown of Thorns
with Three Nails beneath and Cross above
“I” corresponds to “J”, “H” to “E”, and “S” to “S”. The three nails and the cross recall the crucifixion of Christ.
Ark of Noah
and Omega on a Book
City of Jerusalem
The Ark of the
From the left, facing the sanctuary, the statues are:
Jesus of Prague
Therese of Lisieux
Several details of the statue are unusual. The Heart of Jesus is usually portrayed in the center of the chest. On this statue the Sacred Heart is on the left side. Jesus is portrayed wearing a stole, an unusual feature on a statue of the Sacred Heart. The stole is crossed. Before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), it was customary for priests to wear the stole in this manner.
Our Lady of
The Corbel Heads
Corbels are carved wood or stone projections that sustain weight. Our ten corbel heads appear to sustain the weight of the recessed columns above them. They are arrayed along the nave wall between the arches. They probably do not represent particular persons but are purely decorative. Medieval Gothic churches often had similar decorations. More than likely these were cast in plaster from molds. There are three designs: a woman, a bearded man with a bald head, and a bearded man with hair. The designs alternate in an interesting pattern:
Left wall facing the sanctuary:
man with a bald head
Right wall facing sanctuary:
man with hair
While uncertain, it is possible that these figures represent St. Peter, St. Paul, and the Blessed Virgin Mary. St. Peter is often represented as bearded and bald. St. Paul as bearded with a head of hair. This is how they are portrayed in the Chapel stained glass windows. There are many ways in which the Blessed Virgin is depicted. It is also possible that they simply represent the people of the parish.
Our Lady Chapel
Chapel of St. Vincent de Paul
The chapel was added to the church in 1859 and dedicated to St. Vincent De Paul. Its purpose was to accommodate overflow crowds. The seating originally consisted of benches without backs. They were arranged so the congregation could either face the altar, originally placed where the tabernacle is now placed, or the main body of the church.
In 1906, the chapel was transformed into a baptistery with the removal of the altar and the placement of a baptismal font in its place. The archways to the church were completely open until the 1982 renovations. At that time a transparent plastic divider was built separating the chapel from the body of the church. At its dedication, the renovated chapel was named Our Lady Chapel. In 1999 the walls were removed and replaced with sheetrock and the doors were frosted. The chapel altar and the tabernacle platform were installed as part of the 1982 renovations, incorporating brass filigree from the 1906 altar rail, which was removed at that time.
Over the tabernacle is an elaborate gothic canopy. It is made of carved black walnut and originally was the covering of the baptismal font. It probably is the work of John Jelliff, who carved the cathedra in the church.
The Chapel Windows
According to a newspaper account, the windows, like those in the main church, were made in The Netherlands and installed in 1925. It is quite possible that they were made in Germany and shipped from The Netherlands.
A Gothic frame surrounds each. The figures are set before a damascene cloth draped in the background, the color of which changes with each set of windows. Above and behind the drapery, the artist depicts various landscapes.
As you enter the chapel the windows on the left, beginning at the rear and going forward are:
The traditional portrayal of St. Peter, which originates in apocryphal writings of the second century, is that of a bald man with a short beard. He is so depicted on this window. In one hand he holds the “Keys of the Kingdom.” In Matthew’s Gospel, Peter is given these keys as a symbol of the power of forgiving or retaining sins. These crossed keys are today the most recognized symbol of the papal office. In his other hand he holds a book which recalls his traditional authorship of two epistles.
He is the patron of the Papacy, of bakers, butchers, cobblers, and fishermen.
The traditional portrayal of St. Paul, which also originates in apocryphal writings of the second century, is that of a man with a long, pointed beard. He is so shown here. He carries a long sword, a reminder that the Word of God is a “Two-edged Sword.” He also carries a book denoting his authorship of many of the epistles in the Christian Scriptures.
He is the patron of the Cursillo movement, evangelists, lay people, and of Malta.
He is the patron of charitable workers, hospital workers, lepers, prisoners, and the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
St. Ann and
the Blessed Virgin
St. Ann is the patroness against poverty, of Canada, childless people, grandmothers, mothers, pregnant women, and women in labor.
He is the patron of fathers and grandfathers.
Continuing to the right and returning to the rear of the chapel:
He is the patron of youth, Jesuit students and AIDS caregivers.
She is the patroness of the Children of Mary, engaged couples and rape victims.
She is the patroness of penitent sinners.
He is the patron against snakebites, and of Ireland, Nigeria and excluded people.
He is the patron of families, of engineers, of a happy death and of the Universal Church, Canada, China, Korea, Mexico and Vietnam.
The windows of the sacristy depict a “Tree of Life” motif. If you look closely you will see that some of the glass panels are mismatched. The vestment cases were installed in the sacristy in 1933. Of solid oak, they consist of 4 sets of drawers, 6 in each set, and 2 closets for copes and other vestments. They were constructed by Nicholas Sportelli and Son of Paterson.
The Bells of St. Patrick's
Consecrated by Bishop Bayley on December 8, 1862
Patrick — 3,000 pounds
Consecrated by Bishop Corrigan on February 21, 1875
John the Baptist — 2,100 pounds
The weight of all ten bells is 11,264 pounds. Newspaper reports give differing weights for some of the bells. I have chosen to use the weights stated by Bishop Corrigan in his Diocesan Journal.
On March 10, 1875, an organ made by Henry Erben was installed in St. Patrick’s. The original organ, installed in 1850, was sold to St. Michael’s Church in Jersey City. In 1924, Odell and Company of New York constructed a new instrument utilizing many of the pipes of the Erben Organ and new pipes as well. The present organ, incorporating pipes from both the Odell and the Erben organs, was built by the Peragallo Organ Company of Paterson, NJ, and installed in 1968. It is dedicated to the memory of Rt. Rev. Monsignor James F. Looney, P.A.
The specifications for the organ are as follows:
The organ has three manuals, Great, Swell, and Choir of 61 notes and Pedals of 32 notes.
The Great Organ has seven stops: Open Diapason 8’, Bourdon 8’, Octave 4’, Harmonic Flute 4’, Octave Quint 2-2/3’, Super Octave 2’, Fourniture III Rk.
The Swell Organ has nine stops: Bourdon 16’, Geigen Diapason 8’, Hohl Flute 8’, Viole 8’, Viole Celeste 8’, Prestant 4, Rohr Flute 4’, Mixture II Rk., Oboe 8’.
The Choir Organ has seven stops: Geigen Principal 8’, Rohr Gedeckt 8’, Dolce 8’, Dolce Celeste 8’, Wlad Flute 4’, Block Flute 2’, Harmonic Trumpet 8’.
The Pedal Organ has ten stops: Contrebasse 16’, Sub Bass 16’, Bourdon 16’, Quint 10-2/3’ Principal 8’, Mass Flute 8’, Super Octave 4’, Choral Bass 4’, Octavin 2’, Bombarde 16’.
The total number of stops is 32.
The total number of pipes is 1863.
There are 22 Couplers on the organ, 23 Piston Combinations, visibly operating the stop key tablets, 1 Balanced Swell Pedal, 1 Balanced Choir Pedal, 1 Balanced Crescendo Pedal, 3 Pedal, Sforzando Reversible, 1 Great to Pedal reversible
The accessories are five in number: 3 Crescendo Indicator Lights, 1 Sforzando Indicator Light, 1 Current Indicator Light, Swell Tremulant, Choir Tremulant.
The Vestibule Windows
In the transom, above the central door leading to the church from the vestibule, we see a magnificent stained glass representation of St. Patrick, patron of the pro-cathedral. St. Patrick is shown holding a shamrock. According to tradition, he used the three-leafed shamrock as a device to explain the mystery of the Trinity as he preached to the Irish.
This window, and its two companions over the doors to the left and right, has a background of “glue-chip” glass. The hands and face are “double-paned,” producing a three-dimensional effect. Two leading techniques were utilized in the fabrication of this window: “copper foiling,” which combines lead and copper foil, and “lead came,” the traditional “H” shaped lead that holds the pieces of glass together. The use of double-paning and both leading techniques is unusual and indicates a high quality of workmanship. This window and its companions were probably made in the period from 1870 to 1890. We do not know in what studio these windows were made.
The glass over the two smaller doors is of the same style and depicts bouquets of shamrocks, symbol of St. Patrick and of Ireland.
The two side doors of the vestibule leading outside are enhanced with glass above them each depicting a cross and other decorations.
The designs in the lancet windows in the front wall of the vestibule contain various symbols of Christ and the Blessed Virgin.
As you face the wall they are from left to right:
Letters "X" and "P", intertwined
Red Rose and
"Alpha" and "Omega"
At the base of these particular windows is the name of the stained glass maker of the vestibule windows, “Luther Studios,” of Paterson, New Jersey.
Above the main entry doors and in the choir loft there are windows of similar design, probably from the same glass studio.