Making the Transcendent Present
The reliquary aspect of church buildings makes the transcendent present to us now. A reliquary is a "bridge" that unites people, things, and times, within a sacred space.
Even without entering the church, the main doors of St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue bring significant figures into our vision. St. Joseph, St. Isaac Jogues, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Patrick, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton are all brought to our attention through carvings into the enormous bronze doors, crafted for the catedral in 1949. These men and women remind us of the contributions people of multiple nations and cultrures have made to New York City's people, either directly or through work prior to the formation of the city.
The remembrance of saints from many realms continues inside the church. The various altars which dot the the nave are dedicated to figures such as St. Michael, St. Elizabeth, St. Louis. A chapel that was added to the sanctuary in 1901 honors Our Lady (Mary). Stained glass windows illuminate not only the church's interior, but also scenes from its spiritual heritage. For example, The Founders Window depicts missionary St. Patrick, architect James Renwick Jr., and visionary Archbishop Hughes in active moments in their lives.
The most obvious form of a reliquary in the cathedral is the crypt. Located beneath the main altar, the crypt is the burial place for all of the archbishops who have served the Archdiocese of New York. The remains of five other individuals who were especially influential to the development of the church in New York and America are also interred in the crypt.
The soaring ceiling that rises; the crypt that falls below the altar; the depictions of great men and women etched in bronze, carved in stone, and illuminated in art glass; together convey a sense of people hoping for heaven through a sense of communion on earth. In these remains and physical space suggesting a metaphysical connection, the cathedral is reliquary.
“St. Patrick’s Cathedral (RC).” new york architecture. Retrieved on 26 April 2016. http://nyc-architecture.com/MID/MID054.htm
“Take A Virtual Tour.” St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Retrieved on 26 April 2016.
Dobbins, Jeff. ”Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York: A Visitor's Guide" Walks of New York. Retrieved on 25 April 2016. https://www.walksofnewyork.com/blog/saint-patricks-cathedral-new-york