The Cathedral: 3rd Phase
Those interested in the Cathedral in 1941 had no idea that the effort to complete the Cathedral would have to be delayed for so long. But then nobody foresaw the unprecedented social upheavels which followed World War II. By the early 70's, New York City had barely moved back from the brink of bankruptcy. But the question was raised: While the Church concerns itself with particular human needs, must all artistic expressions of the love of God be laid aside.
The Very Rev. James Parks Morton, Dean at the time, pressed for a revival of the building program, but with a new emphasis. The Cathedral would hire and train the unemployed and underemployed from the neighborhood to do the work. He urged, "We will revive the art of stonecraft ... and provide our city with a massive symbol of hope and rebirth."
The Stoneyard was dedicated on June 21, 1979, and on September 29, 1982, aerialist Philippe Petit crossed Amsterdam Avenue on a 150-foot high wire to deliver a silver trowel to Bishop Paul Moore, marking the start of the next phase of construction. Because stonecraft was a moribund skill in the United States, professionals had to be brought from England to train the stoneworkers. The great work was underway again. Blocks were cut, and both the North and South Towers progressed upward.
When Mayor Edward Koch addressed the festive gathering at the Stoneyard's dedication in 1979, he stated, "I am told that some of the great cathedrals took over five hundred years to build. But I would like to remind you that we are only in our first hundred years." The Cathedral is now in its second century, which has offered its own snags. In the early 1990's, The United States was lagging in an economic recession, and the work on the towers was again brought to a halt.
The only stonework which continued was the carving of the Portal of Paradise, the central entrance of the Cathedral. Simon Verity, the master sculptor who trained the Stoneyard apprentices and won the international competition for the Portal Carving Project in 1988, now worked with stonecarver Jean Claude Marchionni on completing the Portal's statuary. The statuary, comprised of 8-foot and 3-foot figures from the Old and New Testaments, was completed in the summer of 1997 and dedicated that fall. Click here to learn more about the Portal of Paradise carvings.
Based on information from the Cathedral's Web Page