The Church of Saint Francis Xavier
The Church of Saint Francis Xavier is located in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. The church dates back to 1847 when Father John Larkin and three other Jesuits established the church of the Holy Name of Jesus in Lower Manhattan. John Hughes, the eventual first Archbishop of New York asked Larkin to come to New York from Kentucky to establish a parish and school in New York City. Father Larkin bought a former Protestant church on Elizabeth Street. However, a fire in 1848 destroyed the building. Father Larkin kept the parish alive in borrowed space until a new church was built in 1851, next door to the current location. The parish outgrew this second church due to an increase in immigration to the U.S. from Catholic countries in the latter half of the 19th century. Tragedy struck again during a women’s mission in 1877 when a panic in the overcrowded church resulted in the death of six women and one child.
The cornerstone was laid on the third church in 1878 and the present day church opened in 1882. It was designed by architect Patrick Keely, one of 600 he designed. Described as Roman Basilica in style, the architecture is classical Roman containing liberal Ancient Grecian and Renaissance modifications, according to the church. The church features 50 murals by Wilhelm Lamprecht of Munich, the leading painter of ecclesiastical works in the U.S.
Materials for the church were from numerous locations. "The polished columns and lighter colored cornices are from New Hampshire, the blue-mottled and snowflake granite from Massachusetts, the interior arches supported by pilasters veneered with Italian marble, the high altar is constructed of blue-veined Italian marble, dotted with Mexican onyx with molding of white statuary marble.”
According to the Saint Francis tour guide, the church cost approximately $600,000 in the 1800s. The two pipe organs cost $26,290, architect, $3,170, muralist, $14,325, property, $189,550, masonry work, $114,462. A $2 million restoration of the exterior of the church began in 2000 with $13 million of interior restoration work commencing in 2009. This included a renovation of the sanctuary, restoration of the lighting, marble, murals, ornamental plaster, stained glass, and statues.
See the Church of St. Francis Xavier Tour Guide available at the church website and at the church entrance and NYCAGO.org for more detail.