September 28, 2021 - 2:14 PM

Conserving a Guastavino treasure at the Cathedral!

Since October 2019, the Cathedral dome has been undergoing a massive conservation effort. If you've visited the Close recently, you may have noticed our Guastavino dome is shining bright with a new copper enclosure. This glittering addition to the Cathedral's architecture was actually done to protect the Guastavino granite underneath. Scroll down to view a time lapse compilation of this progress!

Originally designed and constructed in 1909 by Rafael Guastavino Jr., the 93-feet diameter tile dome above the Crossing was only intended as a temporary roof. However, the dome covers the Crossing to the present day and is one of the largest freestanding domes in the world. It is tall enough to fit the entire Statue of Liberty underneath! It is also the thinnest brick shell in the world.

The Cathedral dome is a paragon of Guastavino Jr.'s construction efficiency and material optimization. His innovation and originality in design is exemplified in his tile vaults, a Mediterranean technique dating back to 1382 that uses thin clay tiles and plaster. The result is a structure that is both lightweight and durable. The Cathedral dome is extraordinarily stable and safe despite its very slim length-to-thickness ratio of 200. It is a true treasure of masonry and we are excited for this opportunity to protect it for another century to come.

Guastavino Jr.'s beautiful tiles can be found all over the Cathedral, from our spiral staircases to the side aisles of our nave. Join us on a Vertical Tour to get a closer look at some of these iconic works of architecture and design.

Over time, portions of the Cathedral dome have experienced water damage. In order to conserve this iconic feature of the Cathedral's architecture and design, we have spent the past two years gradually encasing the existing granite dome with a bronze-hued copper enclosure.

Please enjoy these amazing time lapse videos of the last two years of dome conservation progress, recorded every day from all angles!

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