Phoenixes Rise at St. John the Divine

St. JohnJust above 110th Street on Amsterdam Avenue, you will find the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, which is, according to its website, “the largest Cathedral in the world, meaning a church that is also the seat of a Bishop.” Surrounded by Columbia University, City College, Manhattan School of Music and formerly Juilliard, it serves as an arts center for the academic and local community.xu bing signCurrently, it is hosting the giant phoenixes of Xu Bing, “two six-ton 100 foot sculptures.” In addition, two smaller sculptures can be seen from “the ambulatory that connects the Seven Chapels of the Tongues.” As this required climbing up, we looked from ground level and it was spectacular.

phoenix 9Hanging high in the air and reaching from one end of the cathedral to the other, they are a breathtaking sight.

phoenix 1The models consist of recycled materials, appearing as giant beasts from afar and then  resolving themselves into metal and plastic everyday objects up close.

phoenix 6Animal and bird-like, the sculptures bring brightly colored living forms into the stone house competing with the 12th century stained glass windows.chapel 2Other chapels show additional art exhibits

art figuresbut be sure to go there for the free organ concerts on the Great Organ every Monday afternoon at 1 pm. Raymond Nagem is Associate Organist at the Cathedral and a C.V. Starr Doctoral Fellow at The Juilliard School. It was a joy to listen to his Bach, Franck and Messiaen, especially the Bach. organistThe Great Organ was restored after a 2001 fire and “is widely considered to be the masterpiece of American pipe organ building and is an acclaimed national treasure.”

Of course, St. John the Divine is primarily a place for religious observance and offers many services to its congregation and visitors alike.

A $10 donation is requested to enter the cathedral, see its art and hear its music. All I can say is, it is a tremendous bargain. The Phoenixes are there until MARCH 1—Don’t miss them!!

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