Thursday, July 6, 2017

Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart - Newark, NJ

We've put Catholic basilicas on our trip planning list recently as we've found that they tend to have outstanding architecture, art work and historical significance. That is what took us to Newark, New Jersey, a little out of our way on our drive from Washington, D.C. to New York City. 

The Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart is the fifth largest cathedral in North America and we found it to be spectacular and worth going out of our way for. Construction began in 1899 and it was completed in 1954. It is French-Gothic Revival style. 
The twin towers, known as Gesu and Mater Dolorosa, are 232 feet tall (higher than Notre Dame and Westminster Abbey) and made of Massachusetts white granite. They are not flush with the facade, but are rotated at a 45 degree angle, an idea that originated with, but was not implemented in Rouen, France. It is likened to hands opening up to welcome visitors. 
A copper fleche (in French architecture refers to a spire), something I've never heard of before, rises even higher, to 260 feet, where the nave and the transept cross. 
The bronze doors at the front, which bring to mind the bronze doors in Florence, and may be my favorite element of the cathedral, were designed by Gonippo Raggi & Sons and were actually manufactured in Rome by Aurelio Mistruzzi, who has worked under four popes. They feature Old Testament figures and New Testament evangelists. 
Beautiful bronze doors on the front of the cathedral.
Daniel in the lions den.
Noah, with the ark in the background.
All but one of the 25 altars are carved out of Batticino marble. 
An altar in a side chapel.
The stained glass windows are were made by the F.X. Zettler Studios in Munich, based on the windows at Chartre and made of antique pot glass using medieval methods.

Another favorite in the cathedral is the Stations of the Cross, done in mosaics. A 1985 article in the New York Times notes some anachronisms in the Stations, including a Crusader, a Byzantine warrior, an American colonist, and an English tradesman.
The Crusader in Station 6 with Jesus and Veronica.
The Byzantine warrior in Station 10. 
Pope John Paul II visited in 1995 and celebrated evening prayer at the cathedral. He elevated the cathedral to a basilica. 
The tintinnabulum signifies it as a basilica. 
The Marian cross in the lower right hand corner. An "M" is under the extended arm of the cross and the vertical shaft has been shifted to the left. The "M" represents Mary's presence with Jesus while he was on the cross. It is part of the papal coat of arms of John Paul II. The Sacred Heart, in the lower left, shows Jesus's physical heart as a representation of his divine love of humanity, especially his long suffering love and compassion. As here, it is often depicted as flaming. 
We visited shortly before Memorial Day and the organist was rehearsing for a concert the next night. He played the most beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner I've ever heard. To hear that magnificent organ echoing in that large building was magnificent. 
From the front, looking back toward the altar. The organist is in the middle at the back. 
A closer view of the organist and the main altar. 
The organist at work. 
The rose window over the front entrance. 
The cathedral in Newark is spectacular. A real gem. 


  1. Absolutely worth the detour, if only for the impromptu organ concert. I love the detail on the front doors that you captured.

  2. A very beautiful and interesting exterior. I like the "open hands" towers.