Christ Church Nave, Apse, and Altar
Christ Church is a Methodist church at 60th and Madison Avenue in Manhattan. The predecessor church was the Madison Avenue Methodist Episcopal church, which began in 1881. The congregation expanded and the original building at 60th and Madison Avenue was inadequate to meet the growing needs. A larger building was needed and leadership purchased land in the current location in 1929 on the eve of the stock market crash. Noted architect Ralph Adams Cram was hired to design the new church.
Cram was an influential and prolific architect in the Gothic style, focusing on houses of worship and collegiate buildings. His works include: the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Rice University, Princeton University, University of Richmond, Phillips Exeter Academy, The Choate School, McCormack Post Office and Courthouse in Boston, Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, Saint James’ Church, and Saint Thomas Church. He was the supervising architect at Princeton University for over 20 years and the head of the Architectural Department at MIT. He was on the cover of Time Magazine in 1926.
Cram specialized in the Gothic Revival style; however, the Christ Church site was too small for this design, with spires and flying buttresses. Instead, he selected the Romanesque style, which dominated Europe and the Byzantine Empire from the fourth century to the 11th century. This style is typified by the many rounded arches and the barrel vault of the nave. There is no transept or crossing and hence, no dome. Instead, the barrel vault comes straight into the apse, which is the main focus of the church, according to “A Tour of Christ Church.” The cornerstone was laid in 1931 and services began in 1933 while the interior was being completed.
Work on the mosaics, designed by the firm Cram and Ferguson, stopped in 1940 with the outbreak of World War II as shipments of material from Italy ceased. Work on the mosaics resumed in 1948 under the services of Bruno de Paoli and his firm of mosaic craftsmen in Long Island City. Many of the workers were from Italy. The mosaics were completed in 1949. There are seven million tesserae in the church. Tesserae are cubes of glass or vitreous enamel set in mastic or cement at uneven angles so that they reflect the light in a sparkling manner.
Christ Church was known throughout the U.S. as the home of the National Radio Pulpit, featuring Rev. Dr. Ralph W. Stockman on NBC Radio from 1928 to 1962. He was associated with the church from 1911 to 1961 according to NYCAGO.
I obtained information on the church from NYCAGO and a church publication, “A Tour of Christ Church.”