5. Cathedral of St. John the Divine Crypt
The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is the largest cathedral in the world, but remains unfinished. On the exterior, it shows its unfinished nature through its asymmetrical facade, but inside, until earlier this year when a fire broke out there, the crypt most obviously showed the work that still remains. A Guide to the Cathedral from 1921 posited that it might take 700 years for the Cathedral to be completed, since it was employing true Gothic building methods, but there are no current plans for new construction.
To lay the foundation of the cathedral, the builders had to dig 300 feet down in a project funded by J.P. Morgan. The Guastavinos did the ceiling of the crypt, which is laid out in the shape of a crucifix. Today, that crucifix is truncated due to the unfinished plan. The walkway of the crypt follows the layout above, with studio spaces named after the chapels above. The studios were closed off during our visit in 2014 but there were some renderings available. Isadora Wilkenfeld, the coordinator of the Cathedral’s Programming and Communications, tells us: “The Cathedral has had a long history of artists in residence, and a few of the artists have used the spaces you’re referring to in the crypt. Greg Wyatt, the sculptor who created the Peace Fountain on the south west side of the Cathedral Close, used one as his studio.” Philippe Petit, the World Trade Center tightrope walker, also has a studio here.
In April 2019, a fire broke out in the crypt of the cathedral, destroying and damaging “many paintings, icons and pieces of furniture,” reported the New York Times, an accident that will certainly delay the renovations that had begun for that space in spring 2018.