On Tuesday, a trio of sheep arrived at the Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Nolita to perform some “lamb-scaping” on the normally off-limits cemeteries. It’s a term coined by Frank Alfieri, the Director Rite of Christian Burial at the historic and landmarked cathedral, located between Mulberry and Mott streets. It’s the fourth year that sheep have arrived to efficiently manicure the property, and this year they come from the Buckwheat Bridge Farm in Elizaville, New York.
Alfieri also notes the fitting return of farm animals to this property, which was originally farmland far from the madding crowd of the early colony. The 200-year-old church is the original Cathedral of the Archdiocese of New York and its cemetery predates the building itself – used as the burial site for St. Peter’s Church near today’s World Trade Center.
In all seriousness, Alfieri says that the sheep do a better job than people can. In fact, the sheep were summoned because the (human) groundskeeper retired four years ago and after a rhetorical jest, the Monsigneur of the cathedral decided sheep were indeed just what they needed.
While the New York Times reported that the sheep might be a little “sheepish,” we found yesterday that the trio was actually ready to ham it up for our camera. Not only were they getting cozily accustomed to the graveyard environment, they were wearing stylish jackets to protect their wool.
For the curious visitor who wants to check out the sheep, you won’t be able to get inside the graveyard itself, but you can see them over the fence from the main courtyard and entrance of the Cathedral along Mulberry Street. Over the Feast of San Gennaro, the shepherd will be on site.
Stay tuned on Untapped Cities for a guide to the secrets of the Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which has one of the country’s only two catacombs and many more historic finds.
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Next, check out the secrets of the uptown St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue.