Fordham University Church - The Bronx

University Church
Fordham University
Bronx, NY 10458


The Fordham University Church provides both the students and neighboring parishioners with one of the finest examples of Gothic construction the upper borough can offer. 

Old St. John's as it is also known, is a Gothic revival structure in the middle of The Bronx. The nave, buttresses, gargoyles, and reliquary are all original elements that might be considered prerequisites for any Gothic cathedral. The lantern and Gothic top bell tower were later added but the original spire that the Gothic top replaced was reminiscent of many great European cathedrals. There is a widely accepted rumor that the legendary dark poet, Edgar Allen Poe, was inspired by the University Church to pen his celebrated poem The Bells. The bell that served as his inspiration is known as Old Edgar Allen. 


The University Church was built in 1845 as a seminary chapel and parish church for surrounding farms. The University church was designed in 1846 by a man by the name of Rodrigue (who now has a student coffee house on campus under his name). It was built by the Rev. James Roosevelt Bailey, who was not only the third president of the college but was also the nephew of Saint Elizabeth Seton and cousin to Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt. 

The six windows lining the nave were originally gifts of King Louis Philippe of France to Archbishop Hughes for Old St. Patrick's Cathedral (still standing on Mulberry Street). They did not fit, however, and were given to the seminary chapel. The windows are wonderful examples of nineteenth century realism. They depict the four evangelists and St. Peter and St. Paul and they were created in Sevres, France by a workshop that has been tied to the earliest stages of the Gothic revival.

The University Church underwent a major renovation in 1929 that saw its capacity expand from 400 to 1,200. Three other major changes in appearance were made .
The replacement of the original spire with the Gothic top bell tower.
The addition over the crossing of lantern patterned after those in Ely Cathedral and St. John's College in Cambridge.
The windows in both the sanctuary and transepts were replaced by the Munich windows that were previously housed in housed in Keating Hall. The sanctuary windows are the Holy Family Windows while the windows in the right transept are the Jesuit windows and those on the left are the Apparition Windows.

The Interior and the Altar

In 1941, Cardinal Francis Spellman offered the church the old altar from St. Patrick's. The altar was originally made in 1879. The University gladly accepted Cardinal Spellman's gift and the altar now rests against the back wall of the church. 

Upon its arrival at Old St. John's, the university commissioned Mildreth Meiere, a native New Yorker best known for her wonderful mosaics and murals of the United States, to redo parts of the altar. Her three paintings represent Our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces, the patroness of the University Church, and were said to be "designed to impress the undergraduates with several important truths. They emphasize the fact that great saints can be women as well as men; laymen as well as religious; Popes, Cardinals, and Lord Chancellors as well as simple friars: that wisdom and scholarship have characterized the Church in every age and every land, and finally, that the original churches are a treasured part of our cultural and spiritual heritage. The center panel has the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius of Loyala, St. John the Baptist, St. Genevieve, St. Isaac Jogues and St. Patrick. The left panel has St. Robert Bellarmine S.J., St. Basil the Great, St. Thomas More, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Peter Canisius, S.J., and St. Augustine of Hippo. The right panel has St. Bede the Venerable, St. Edmund Campion, S.J., St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory the Great, O.S.B., St. Columbia of Iona, and St. Thomas Aquinas, OP.

The Fordham University Church, built in 1845 as a seminary chapel and parish church for surrounding farms, was declared an official New York City landmark in 1970. A plaque placed on the church exterior by the Alumni Sodality in 1939 gives a background: "The Rev. James Roosevelt Bayley, third president of the college, a nephew of the venerable Elizabeth Seton and cousin of two presidents of the United States [Theodore and Franklin Delano Roosevelt], afterward Bishop of Newark and Archbishop of Baltimore, erected this church in 1845 as a seminary chapel. The windows of the nave were presented by Louis Philippe, King of the French, in 1846. The bell in the tower, known since as Old Edgar Allan, is said to have inspired Poe, a friend and neighbor, to write his celebrated poem, 'The Bells.' " The plaque was unveiled by FDR's mother, Mrs. James Roosevelt.

The church continues to serve the spiritual life of Fordham. Many attend weekly liturgies which are also streamed live on the internet and broadcast on WFUV. The Sunday evening Mass is particularly popular with students, and the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass and Easter Vigil continue to draw large crowds. The church also hosts a series of concerts, from the Fordham University Concert Choir to visiting choirs and the Bronx Arts Ensemble. Graduates return often: Fifty to sixty weddings are performed here each year. On Nov. 30, 1995, more than 600 faculty, administrators, students, alumni and others filled the church for a Mass of Thanksgiving to commemorate its 150th year. John Cardinal O'Connor, Archbishop of New York, served as principal celebrant.

Rose Hill is home to the University Church, which was built in 1845 as a seminary chapel and parish church for the surrounding community. The Gothic-style church is an official New York City landmark; it contains the original altar from the old St. Patrick's Cathedral and stained glass windows intended for the cathedral from King Louis-Philippe of France. The windows are also notable for their connection to a workshop in Sèvres, France, where the earliest stages of the Gothic Revival took place. There are 10 residence halls on campus, including four residential colleges and six Integrated Learning Communities for such disciplines as science, business, and leadership.[54] In addition, the campus contains three Jesuit residences; Murray-Weigel Hall, the infirmary for the New York Province of the Society of Jesus; and Ciszek Hall, one of only three Jesuit scholastic residences in the United States. The William Spain Seismic Observatory, located at Rose Hill, was the first seismic station in the United States to record ground waves from the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is part of a national network of seismic stations that report data to the U.S. Geological Survey in Boulder, Colorado.

Objective: New Organs


...and after a work day...


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