Keith Haring, The Life of Christ, 1990, in the Chapel of St. Columba
Photo: Helena Kubicka de Bragança

Keith Haring artwork ©Keith Haring Foundation

Highlights of the Fabric

The word, "fabric," in this context, means every single material element of which the Cathedral is composed, from the stones and brick of the building to the works of art--dating from the medieval to the contemporary periods--that adorn its interior. Read on to learn about some of the treasures of the Cathedral's fabric.

In order of display, from west to east:

The Great Bronze Doors
Cast by Barbedienne of Paris, who also cast the Statue of Liberty. Each door is 18 feet high, six feet wide, and weighs three tons. The doors’ 60 bas-relief panels depict Old and New Testament stories on the exterior side, and flowers, birds and natural imagery on the interior side.

Altar of Peace, George Nakashima
Master woodworker George Nakashima’s Altar of Peace was crafted from the trunk of a 300-year-old Black Walnut tree and consecrated to world peace in 1986. Shaped like a ginko leaf, its two massive sides are held together by delicately carved rosewood butterfly keys. Nakashima dreamed of providing Altars of Peace for each of the seven continents. Today there is also one in Russia and one in India.

Choir Stalls
On permanent loan from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the 15th-century German choir stalls separate the Narthex from the Nave, demarcating the entrance from the body of the Cathedral with their warm, wooden hues and elegantly carved details.

Firemen Memorial
The Firemen Memorial was sculpted by Ralph Feldman, a New York City firefighter, and is composed of the remains from various fire sites. The memorial was dedicated to all firefighters in 1976, and gained new resonance in the wake of September 11. It is on view in the Labor Bay.

The Mortlake Tapestries: The Acts of the Apostles
Woven from English wool by Flemish loom operators following cartoons created by the renowned High Renaissance artist Raphael, the Cathedral's Mortlake tapestries (17th century) depict scenes of the acts of the Apostles drawn from the New Testament Book of Acts. This confluence of English wool, Flemish hands, and Italian designs distinguishes the Mortlake tapestries as among those that were created during the golden age of tapestry-making. Two of the set of nine are currently on view: "The Healing of the Lame Man" (Communication Bay) and "The Death of Saphira" (Education Bay).

Fate of the Earth, Peter Gourfain
The 24 wall-mounted, individual bronze reliefs that compose Peter Gourfain’s Fate of the Earth were created in 1988. They depict scenes of environmental destruction and conflicts over disappearing natural resources and are on view, appropriately, in the Earth Bay.

The Barberini Tapestries: The Life of Christ
Named after the looms of Roman Cardinal Francesco Barberini, upon which they were woven in the 17th century, and notable for having been created in southern Italy during a time when most tapestries were woven in northern Europe, the Barberini Tapestries illustrate scenes from the life of Christ. They were originally intended as a gift for Cardinal Barberini's uncle, Pope Urban VIII, and were donated to the Cathedral by Mrs. Elizabeth U. Coles in 1891, one year before its foundation stone was laid. Selected tapestries from the full set of 12 are on rotating view in the Crossing.

Siamese Book Cabinets
The pair of teak Siamese book cabinets, set beside the north and south entrances to the Ambulatory, were a gift from His Majesty the King of Siam (Thailand) in 1930, presented to the Cathedral by the Siamese Minister Major General Prince Amoradat Kridakara. The ornately inlaid cabinets required eight months’ work by craftsmen especially selected by the King himself.

Memorial to September 11, Meredith Bergmann
Meredith Bergmann's monumental bronze sculpture, Memorial to September 11 (2012), was specially commissioned by the Cathedral as a larger version of her earlier, tabletop-sized work, created shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center. The glass case below the larger-than-life female figure contains debris salvaged from the WTC site, uncannily shaped like a heart.

Compass Rose
Official emblem of the Worldwide Anglican Communion, The Compass Rose is set into the pavement center of the Great Choir. It was designed by Cathedral Canon Edward N. West, whose ashes lie below the design of variegated marble and brass. The text surrounding the central cross is in Greek, and translates as: “The truth will set you free.”

The two 12-foot-high menorahs flanking the High Altar were presented to the Cathedral by New York Times publisher, Adolph Ochs, to thank Bishop William Manning for his efforts to improve Jewish-Christian relations in New York City. The menorahs are based on a relief on the Arch of Titus in Rome, depicting the Romans removing the menorah from the Temple in Jerusalem.

Japanese Vases
The two large Japanese cloisonné vases set upon the High Altar were presented to the Cathedral in 1926 by His Excellency Ambassador Tsuneo Matsudaira on behalf of his country. The design on the cool, blue-green vases represents the hibiscus mutabilis flower and the Japanese birds Ruricho, Jushimatsu, and Hiwa.

The Life of Christ, Keith Haring
The Life of Christ (1990), a bronze and white-gold triptych altarpiece, is among the last works of noted New York City artist Keith Haring (1958-1990), completed just weeks before his death from AIDS. True to Haring's inimitable and exuberant style, the altarpiece is crowded with angels and human figures, whose outstretched limbs lead the eye to the central figure of Christ. The altarpiece is a gift of the Estate of Keith Haring.