If you examine the intricate, stone facade of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, you might notice something out of the ordinary: presumably etched onto its pillars is a depiction of New York as the new “Babylon the Great” — the most infamous, luxurious, and powerful city in the world. However, these apocalyptic pillars ascribe the same tragic fate to New York as that of Babylon, illustrating the End of Days for the city as it falls to the hands of God. Gothamist recently spoke to a representative for St. John the Divine to get the scoop.
These scenes of destruction are found on what is known as the Portal of Paradise, located on the Cathedral’s western facade. Added by stone carver Simon Verity between the years 1988 to 1997, the images — in keeping with Italian Renaissance tradition — depict certain biblical tragedies in a modern context. You can spot the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and the Twin Towers collapsing or sinking. There are giant waves overtaking the city, cars and buses plummeting into tumultuous waters beneath them, and images of scorpions, snakes, skulls, and people running in chaos below the stock exchange. Perhaps the scariest scene, however, is that of New York toppling under the massive mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion.
Of course, the pillars have attracted the attention of many conspiracy theorists who now believe that the apocalyptic pillars offer a warning of New York’s impending destruction. Fortunately, it’s not all gloom and doom. Underneath the images of devastation is a scene of resurrection. According to a representative who spoke with Gothamist, you’ll find stonemasons building a great cathedral upon the city’s ashes, just as Nehmiah built the Second Temple upon the ruins of Solomon’s temple.
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