The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for August 14th, 2011

exceeding magnitude

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, an invitation to attend a lecture offered by a prominent maritime scholar drew both myself and the Newtown Pentacle’s far eastern correspondent Armstrong to lower Manhattan. Early for the evenings presentation, we decided to wander aimlessly around the imposing edifices of the municipality and see what we could see. St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church drew attention to itself and since I had never visited the celebrated structure, we approached and entered the Georgian Revival church.

from wikipedia

The Church of St. Andrew is a Roman Catholic parish church in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, located at 20 Cardinal Hayes Place, Manhattan, New York City. It was established in 1842 and has been staffed by the Blessed Sacrament Fathers ever since.

In 1892, the address listed was on Duane Street, and the corner of City Hall Place.

The present building was erected in 1939 through a joint effort involving the famous Boston firm Maginnis & Walsh and Robert J. Reiley of New York. It is one of the best examples of the Georgian Revival architectural style in New York. St. Andrew is the only New York City church to be designed by Maginnis & Walsh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Subsequent antiquarian research revealed that the site was originally a “friends” or Universalist meeting house, and had been acquired by the then struggling Roman Catholics for use by the surging tide of congregants arriving into Manhattan, some from war ravaged southern Germany but most were arriving from famine stricken Ireland. The stately appliances and forbidding iconography of lower manhattan were not in place yet, and this neighborhood had an entirely different character. This was the worst slum on earth, more crowded than Bombay and twice as dangerous, according to Charles Dickens.

The Five Points and the infamous Old Bailey were nearby, the legendary Collect Pond was across the street, and despite Dagger John Hughes being a mere Bishop during this period- he had already seen the need for expansion.


The Roman Catholic parish of St. Andrew was established in 1843 when Father Andrew Byrne transformed Carroll Hall into St. Andrew’s Church. Built in 1818 for the Congregational Society of United Christian Friends, Carroll Hall was, in 1841, the site where Catholics rallied to fight denial of public funding for parochial schools. Father Byrne was the pastor until 1844, when he was named the first bishop of the new Diocese of Little Rock, comprised of the entire State of Arkansas and all of the Indian Territory, and was consecrated that year in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Cardinal Patrick J. Hayes, for whom the church’s street was renamed, was born in a house next door to St. Andrew’s Church, and was baptized here in 1867.

Tragedy struck the church in 1875 when, during a severe storm, the building next door collapsed, causing the ceiling of the church to drop onto 1,200 who were attending an evening mass during Lent. Many were killed or wounded, and a panic ensued because the main entrance of the church was locked.

In 1900, Father Luke J. Evers began a 2:30 am Mass for night workers who were employed in the nearby Printing House Square, where the Sun, Telegraph, Times, and World newspapers were then published. This tradition continued for more than 50 years, and the church became known as “The Printers’ Church.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

St. Andrew, according to several variants and doctrinal versions, is meant to have been a disciple of John the Baptist and brother of the apostle (and church founder) Simon Peter. He’s the patron saint of Scotland, and of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The X shaped device he bears is the instrument of his death by crucifixion, and the legends say that he pleaded with the Romans not to crucify him in the same manner as Jesus (as he was unworthy of the honor) so they used the X or Crux Decussata configuration instead of the T.

It should be pointed out that the Romans were not known for granting last requests in those days, and that this iconography emerged only in the late middle ages according to scholarly sources.

from A history of the churches, of all denominations, in the city of New York 1846, courtesy google books

St. Andrew’s Church.

In the year 1840, another Catholic Church was formed, called ” St. Andrew’s Church,” under the pastoral charge of the Rev. John Maginnis. A house of worship, originally built by a Universalist Society, situated on Duane street, near Chatham, was purchased, and here they remain.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The interior of the church was staid and tasteful, and there were a couple of people praying so I kept to the side. There were beautiful confessional booths set into the walls, exquisitely carven and tastefully placed, but as the light was quite dim within the church – and not wanting to disturb the parishioners- I decided against setting up a tripod to do a long exposure shot.

The image above and below were gathered by merely laying my camera down on the pews instead to accomplish the long shutter speed’s need for stabilization.

There was a feeling of emptiness, a quiet void, within the building- it was the quietest corner of Lower Manhattan I’ve experienced to date. The thick walls and heavy doors insulated the place from all but the loudest exhalations of the constant outside tumult.

from A brief sketch of the early history of the Catholic Church on the island of New York, 1870, courtesy google books

The year 1841 was made famous in the history of Catholicity in New York by the agitation of the “School Question,” as it was called. Previous to that time, the public instruction had been in the hands of a close corporation, under the title of the Public School Society, which administered and distributed, according to its own good pleasure, the funds provided by the city for the purpose of education.

The books used in these schools abounded with the usual stereotyped falsehoods against the Catholic religion, and the fnost vexatious and open system of proselytism was carried on in them. The evil became finally so great, that no alternative was left for Catholic parents but either to prevent their children from attending the schools at all, or to cause an entire change to be made in the system; under the advice and active leadership of the Bishop, a systematic attempt was made to call the attention of the community and public authorities to the subject, and after a severe contest it resulted in the establishment of the present Common School system.

The Bishop delivered two lectures upon the subject in Carroll Hall, but one of the most triumphant defences of the principle contended for by the Catholics was made by him in a speech before the Common Council of New York, in which he replied to the arguments of Messrs. Ketchum and Sedgwick, who had been employed by the Public School Society as their counsel, and also to Dr. Bond, Dr. Spring, and others who had volunteered in its support.

Experience has since shown, however, that the nw system, though administered with as much impartiality and fairness as could be expected under the circumstances, is one which, as excluding all religious instruction, is most fatal to the moral and religious principles of our children, and makes it evident that our only resource is to establish schools of our own, where sound religious knowledge shall be imparted at the same time with secular instruction. If we needed any evidence upon the matter, it would be found in the conduct and behavior of those of our children who are educated under the Christian Brothers, when contrasted with those who are exposed to the pernicious influences of a public school.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dagger John Hughes, through no fault of his own, is the reason why education in the City of New York is both secular and overseen by a municipal agency. His determination to have anti Catholic rhetoric removed from the curricula of the Public School Society, and the controversy surrounding the issue, resulted in an 1842 decision by the State Government in Albany to form the Board of Education of the City of New York.

from Harper’s magazine, Volume 40 1870, courtesy google books

The Public School Society ceased to be the almoner of the public moneys.

Principle forbade that the State should become tributary to the hierarchy. Policy forbade that it should leave the grievances of the Church, real or imaginary, wholly unredressed. A middle course was adopted. Once, at least, in the history of legislation a compromise has resulted in the adoption of a permanent and beneficent principle.

A Board of Education was appointed for the city of New York.

All public funds were placed in their hands for distribution. The schools of the Public School Society were among those named in the act as entitled to share in the distribution of this fund. No school in which any religious sectarian doctrine or tenet should be taught might have the same privilege. Such, in a sentence, was the school law of 1842. For its existence the State owes an incalculable debt of gratitude to two ecclesiastics, either of whom would have bitterly opposed it to the last.

That the school system of New York city is a system, that education is no longer doled out as a charity to the poor, either by the Churches or by philanthropic societies, but is awarded to all, as a right, by the State, is due largely, if not chiefly, to the unintentional offices of Rev. Jonathan Chase and Archbishop Hughes, who succeeded in promoting the very legislation which they were most desirous to prevent.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Anti Catholic bigotry is what Dagger John called it, and it was decided that the Catholic Church would need to set up its own schools- parochial schools- where Doctrine would be part and parcel of the lesson plan. Great Universities and thousands of schools would be founded within just a few years, but the soon to be Archbishop Hughes already had his gaze fixed upon his next great project.

A large parcel of land in Queens would be acquired to house the mortal remains of his ever expanding flock. This land- found along the Newtown Creek- he would consecrate it as his Calvary Cemetery.

from wikipedia

He was consecrated bishop on January 7, 1838 with the titular see of Basileopolis. He succeeded to the bishopric of the diocese of New York on December 20, 1842 and became an archbishop on July 19, 1850, when the diocese was elevated to the status of archdiocese.

Hughes, influenced by the reactionary stance of Pope Pius IX, was a staunch opponent of Abolitionism and the Free Soil movement. In 1850 he delivered an address entitled “The Decline of Protestantism and Its Causes,” in which he announced as the ambition of Roman Catholicism “to convert all Pagan nations, and all Protestant nations . . . Our mission [is] to convert the world—including the inhabitants of the United States—the people of the cities, and the people of the country . . . the Legislatures, the Senate, the Cabinet, the President, and all!”

He also campaigned actively on behalf of Irish immigrants, and attempted to secure state support for religious schools. He protested against the United States Government for using the King James Bible in public schools, claiming that it was an attack on Catholic constitutional rights of double taxation, because Catholics would need to pay taxes for public school and also pay for the private school to send their children, to avoid the Protestant translation of the Bible. When he failed to secure state support, he founded an independent Catholic school system which was taken into the Catholic Church’s core at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, 1884, which mandated that all Parishes have a parochial school and that all Catholic children be sent to those schools.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 14, 2011 at 4:43 pm

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