NEW YORK - If you want to fully appreciate the magnificence of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Midtown Manhattan, you must look up to properly take in the majestic ceiling. Monsignor Robert Ritchie, the rector of St. Patrick's, says the ceiling looks like the bottom of a ship. That is why the area is called the nav.
The round rose glass window anchors one end. The vaulted ceiling is made of wood designed to look like marble and stretches the length of a city block.
Ritchie helped oversee the four-year $177 million restoration of the 5th Avenue landmark. He says the windows on the first floor were installed in 1878. They tell the stores of different saints.
St. Patrick has his own window. The upper part shows St. Patrick preaching to the Irish at the very beginning of his ministry.
Monsignor Ritchie says that when he was just 5 years old he decided he wanted to become a Catholic priest. He took me to his favorite place inside the cathedral—a replica of Michelangelo's famous Pietà sculpture in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. It shows the Virgin Mary cradling Jesus after his crucifixion. Monsignor Ritchie says his grandmother would bring him here when he was a child to say a prayer.
The sculpture portrays the moment when Jesus' body was taken down from the cross and laid in the arms of his mother for a short time before he was entombed. Monsignor Ritchie says you can see the sorrow on Mary's face as she holds her son's lifeless body.
St. Patrick's hosts millions of visitors from all over the world. Monsignor Ritchie says it is an active church that seeks be very warm and accepting of all people, even those who aren't Catholic.
One of the more popular exhibits is the crèche. The monsignor has it put up early in the season. He says it is the only religious expression of Christmas among 5th Avenue's lights and holiday windows.
If you look closely, next to the traditional hand-carved donkey, camels, and sheep you might see something unusual: a dog. Monsignor Ritchie says you wouldn't have seen a dog like that 2,000 years ago but it looks very much like his own dog so he included it in the display.