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[IMG Trinity from the Street] Trinity Church


Gregory Pace
[[email protected]]




Trinity Church is one of the oldest churches in the United States. The city of New York was just beginning to flourish in 1697 when Trinity Church received its founding charter. This charter was issued in the name of King William III in response to the Anglican colonists' eagerness to build a church to call their own. The Church was to function in accordance with the Church of England, and an annual rent of one peppercorne was required to the crown.

Three Churches

  • The original Trinity Church finished construction in 1698 and appeared modest in design. Unfortunately, this first church was destroyed in 1776 by a massive fire stemming from an American Revolution battle.
  • The church was built anew in 1790, but like its predecessor, it did not stay standing long. Heavy snows from the harsh winters of 1838-1839 weakened the church's structure and it was inevitably torn down.
  • The third and present building of Trinity Church was completed and consecrated in 1846.


The Third Church - A Neo-Gothic Masterpiece

The brilliant architect in charge of its design was Richard Upjohn, founder of the American Institute of Architects.

Upjohn designed the Church in a Neo-Gothic fashion complete with sandstone and stained-glass windows, two features previously unheard of at the time. Upjohn's designe reflected a "High Church" fashion with holy images that appeared glamorous to the eye. The contemporaryt Protestant "Low Church" people disapproved of this style because they were used to simple designs in churches - Upjohn's design seemed all too flashy. To pacify their sentiment, Upjohn left the designs along the two main side walls simple and very basic in appearance.

At the time the Church was built, its 281 foot spire and cross stood as the highest point in New York City.

Gothic Architecture at Trinity

External Impression:

Medieval Gothic architecture is represented in abundance by many of the exterior designs of the Church. The beautiful sandstone face of the Church is adorned with a Gothic spires and pointed arches. Overall, the exterior is very linear in design with emphasis on the vertical lines giving the impression that everything is pointing upward. The highest point of the structure is marked by a Gothic cross. The one curious aspect of the predominantly Gothic architecture is that there are no flying buttresses. Unlike most Gothic structures, there are no elaborate supports extending from either side of the Church.

The Entrance:

The heavy bronze front doors to the Church present a fine example of Gothic flamboyance -- an elaborate designs of religious figures and ceremonies can be seen on it.

The Interior:

The interior of the Church is Gothic in design as well.

Stained Glass

Stained-glass windows can be seen from the sides of the Church all the way to the front. The most remarkable of these stained-glass windows is the chancel window towering above the altar. (picture 2) This brilliant design resembles a Gothic pointed arch and depicts Jesus, St. Peter, St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, St. John, and St. Paul in a dazzling array of colors. Many other religious figures are depicted in this window, including representations of the Trinity and the Eucharist.

[IMG: Stained Glass Window]
[IMG Altar Reredos]
The Altar Reredos

The altar beneath this window contains many Gothic-like lines which are high and pointed. Numerous reredos depicting several religious figures are enclosed in the altar.


The vault ribs seen along both sides of the Church's walls conform to typical Gothic architecture. Throughout different parts of the Church, numerous religious figures are represented by statues and memorial, including the cenotaph of Rt. Rev. Benjamin T. Onderank in the North Monument Room. (inset picture 4) Rev. Onderank was the fourth (Episcopalian) Bishop of New York and is buried in the Trinity Church Cemetery located on Broadway and 155th Street. Overall, almost every aspect of the Church's interior is a testimony to Gothic architecture.

[IMG Cenotaph]



[IMG Rood Cross]Trinity Church stands as a representation of religious piety and devotion amidst one of the largest business districts in America. The Church has truly survived the test of time and has remained virtually unchanged in a city where change is a constant. Besides serving predominantly as an Episcopalian place of worship, Trinity Church also provides thousands of business people with a quiet place for meditation and worship among their busy lives.


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This Page is part of the Medieval New York Web Project, a project of students in the Introduction to Medieval History courses taught by Paul Halsall in the History Department of Fordham University in 1996-1997.

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© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 5 June 2023 [CV]