The Cathedral of St John the Divine is usually described in superlatives that refer to the church’s enormous size – St John’s is the fourth-largest Christian church and largest Gothic cathedral in the world, and the rose window, best appreciated from Broadway and 112th Street, is the largest stained-glass window in the United States, containing more than 10,000 colored pieces. You’ll get a sense of the sheer vastness of the place – two football fields long and 17 stories tall – as soon as you step inside.
Like the rest of ever-changing Manhattan, the cathedral is a perpetual construction site, and has been a work in progress since 1892. Unlike many of the great European cathedrals, set off in greenery, St John is squeezed onto its urban site, giving the impression that the church is even bigger than it is. Provided you don’t succumb to vertigo, you can get a good perspective of the overwhelming vastness of the church on a Vertical Tour. You will climb high above the nave on spiral staircases, cross the flying buttresses, and emerge next to the gargoyles on the roof, peering at carvings and stained glass as you go.