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Merritt Island, Florida
December 23, 2005
This church is found on the east side of the World Trade Center Memorial. It is one of the many places that became a memorial after 9/11. We came across this lovely chapel after visiting Battery Park.
What caught our attention was this memorial/artwork that was found directly outside of the church. This piece of bronze art is a cast of roots of a sycamore tree that had stood in the church's courtyard. This sycamore was taken down when the trade centers collapsed on 9/11/01. According to a sign in front of the piece, the artist (Steve Tobin) took over 300 casting of the actual roots of the sycamore to commemorate what happened on that day.
Once we entered the church, we entered yet another beautiful place of worship. The archways, the stained glass, and everything else was perfect.
Again: I apologize for the blurry pictures, as it was rather dark in the church. If you are in the financial district, this is a must-see.
From journal New York City ... Winter Wonderland
West Virginia, West Virginia
August 27, 2005
The manmade landscape of Lower Manhattan consists of a wondrously eclectic assemblage of intriguing structures. In the midst of this landscape, a carefully roving eye will detect an unnatural hole—unnatural, in that it is devoid of a skyline. That hole, of course, is the space where the World Trade Center once stood and where a kind of frenzied, reverent construction process is now the order of the day.
Just a few hundred yards away—indeed, right across the street—is another Manhattan anomaly, St. Paul’s Chapel. As one of the few remaining colonial structures in Lower Manhattan, it is the area’s oldest continuously used public building, not to mention its only remaining colonial church. St. Paul’s is an exceedingly rare reminder that this corner of Manhattan Island was once regarded as a rural retreat. Built between 1764 and 1766, its original Anglican parishioners were farmers located on the northern fringes of the colonial port of New York. Today, the chapel with its churchyard forms a small green oasis of the past amidst the hustle and bustle of modern New York City’s financial district.
Some would claim that on September 11, 2001, the fact that an ancient sycamore tree stood between the small church and the World Trade Center—and took the brunt of the forces released by the collapsing buildings—was no accident. The tree fell with spreading branches that acted as a shield to preserve the church from what should have been certain destruction. Since that time, those caught up in the events that followed 9-11 at Ground Zero have bonded with St. Paul’s to form a remarkable model for humanitarian conduct during a time of tragedy.
History and Architecture
Before 9-11, St. Paul’s was already imbued with an impressive history. George Washington worshiped there during the 2 years that the port city of New York served as the Nation’s capital, as did George Clinton, the State of New York’s first governor. The two Georges had pews on opposite sides of the sanctuary, which means that modern visitors will find the Great Seal of the United States and the Coat of Arms of the State of New York facing each other from opposite walls of the chapel. Other presidents and dignitaries who have worshiped there include Britain’s King William IV, who served as an officer in the Royal Navy during the American Revolution; Lords Cornwallis and Howe, who lead British forces against the American rebels; and Presidents Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, and George Bush (the elder).
The chapel’s architecture and interior decoration are as historically evocative as its former congregants. Built in the Georgian Classic-Revival style using local stone, St. Paul’s resembles a smaller version of St. Martin’s-in-the-Field near London’s Trafalgar Square—although St. Martin’s appears pristinely white whereas St. Paul’s is constructed of local mica-schist and brownstone. Pierre L'Enfant, best known for his pioneering city plan for Washington, D.C., designed St. Paul’s dramatic alter piece, "Glory," which depicts the tablets of the Ten Commandments at the foot of Mt. Sinai.
St. Paul’s Today
St. Paul’s today is an integral part of the Episcopal parish served by nearby Trinity Church. In many respects, it has a typically urban ministry—multilingual outreach, programs for families and for the homeless, plus a series of lectures and concerts. In other ways, however, St. Paul’s is not typical. It was and is "The Little Chapel That Stood" on the threshold of Ground Zero, a place that for so many served as a source of hope and help during the frenzy that immediately followed September 11, 2001. It was an on-the-spot base of operations for rescue and recovery personnel during those long weeks of searching through the rubble. At St. Paul’s, the fireman, rescuers, and other workers found food, water, and a place to escape for a few minutes of quite or prayer—or sleep. St. Paul’s became a symbol of hospitality and meaningful support, of courage and constancy in the face of tragedy.
Our Visit to St. Paul’s
When Himself and Yours Truly visited St. Paul’s Chapel in April of this year, we found it by chance. We had deboarded our Battery Park-bound bus to pay our respects at the site of the World Trade Center. Spying the old church across the street, we noticed a fair amount of activity, with people coming and going. We entered as most of the rescue workers would have done, through the churchyard doors at the rear of the chapel. To our surprise, we found that we already knew this place. This was little church we’d heard about and seen on so many news reports during the weeks after 9-11.
Inside St. Paul’s, we found a moving exhibit titled Unwavering Spirit: Hope and Healing at Ground Zero. We found handmade banners and posters hanging from the balcony, a selection from the many sent to St. Paul’s from all over the country, and indeed from around the world. One that particularly caught my eye was apparently made by a child. It depicted a large red heart with a zigzag down the middle. Above the broken heart was the word "Hope" and across the zigzag was a band-aide.
We saw impromptu shrines of the type that appeared all over New York during that time—poignant reminders of lives lost and grief endured by families who had too few answers about their missing loved one. We saw offerings of mementos of all kinds left for the workers: teddy bears and t-shirts, notes of thanks and support, flags of all sizes from many nations. We saw a manikin draped in a liturgical garment entirely covered with dozens of colorful policy, fire, and rescue patches that hung loosely like the feathers on King Kamehameha’s robes. We saw a cross fashioned from two sections of a heavy chain, the links welded to hold bar of the cross firmly in place. And under a window, we saw a simply cot covered with stuffed animals, a telling reminder of the comfort offered at St. Paul’s.
Across the sanctuary, I noticed Himself lingering here and there, his eyes scanning one display, then another. After a few minutes, he came to my side and said, "Take all the time you want, but I need to go back outside." The emotions he was experiencing were etched quietly on his face. As I left the chapel, I found him beside a bell that had been presented to St. Paul’s by the mayor of London. Cast in bronze at Whitechapel Bell Foundry (the same foundry that created Big Ben and the Liberty Bell), the Bell of Hope was presented to the chapel by the mayor of London on September 11, 2002, and is inscribed with words— "To the greater glory of God and in recognition of the enduring links between the City of London and the City of New York. Forged in adversity – September 11, 2001."
On July 8, 2005, the bell rang in tribute to the victims of a new and similarly senseless tragedy in London. It tolled four times in memory of each of the four blasts that shook London on July 7, 2005. Then it tolled steadily for a minute, a memorial to these more recent victims of terror.
Location, Hours, and Loose Ends
St. Paul’s Chapel is located at Broadway and Fulton Street (or on the opposite side, at Church Street and Fulton) in Lower Manhattan. It is open to visitors 7 days a week from 10 am through 6 pm (4 pm on Sundays).
Services include a daily Prayer for Peace at 12:30 pm; morning and evening prayers conducted Monday through Friday at 10:15 am and 5 pm, respectively; and eucharist services on Wednesday (12:30 pm) and Sunday (8 am).
As for the felled sycamore, the tree that shielded the church against the worst of the debris from collapsing buildings on 9-11, it will be memorialized at the chapel by a sculpture that is actually molded from the tree’s stump and root system. A new tree, a 21-foot-high Norway spruce christened the Tree of Hope, has taken the place of the sycamore in the northwest corner of the churchyard.
From journal New York Notes
District of Columbia County, District of Columbia
November 6, 2004
Very few places in New York have witnessed the history that St. Paul’s Chapel has. The Episcopal Church is known for its survival of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, which was across the street from the church, as well as its outreach to the people involved in the recovery. However, the church’s history goes back to a time well before 9-11; a time when the American Revolution was still a decade away.
St. Paul’s Chapel was completed in 1766, and at the time of its construction, was considered to be "on the edge of town," as the city of New York mainly lay to the south of the church’s location. It’s hard to believe today that this church was once almost out in the country! Unlike Boston and Philadelphia, where colonial structures abound, St. Paul’s is one of the few remaining buildings in Manhattan from that period. Today it stands not only as the city’s sole remaining colonial church, but as the city’s oldest public building in continuous use.
During the years that New York served as the nation’s capital, President George Washington regularly attended services here, including a service on Inauguration Day in 1789. Other noted individuals who have worshiped at St. Paul’s include the first governor of the New York, several members of the British royalty, and several former US presidents. And, in 1831, the funeral for President James Monroe was held here.
Had the attacks of September 11, 2001 never occurred, St. Paul’s would still occupy a very historic place in this great city. However, it is the events of that day, and what transpired afterward, that gave this 238-year-old church a significant position in modern history. Despite being across the street from the World Trade Center, St. Paul’s survived the collapse of the massive towers without a single broken window. A large sycamore tree in the churchyard cushioned the force of the collapsing towers, saving the structure. The trunk of the shredded tree has since been preserved as evidence of the destruction of that day.
By September 15 the church began its ministry to the rescue workers. Without electricity, the first meals were cooked on portable grills. By October 1, the church had organized a formal ministry to aid the relief workers, setting up a schedule to provide chaplain, counseling, and meal services to the workers. The chapel became an oasis of rest, mediation, and renewal for the aid workers, and services were provided 24 hours a day for 8 months.
Since 2001, St. Paul’s has continued operation as part of the parish of Trinity Church. It also serves as a memorial to those who died across the street on September 11, 2001 and the relief workers who served for 8 months following the attacks to assist in the recovery efforts.
For more information on St. Paul’s Chapel, visit their website, and my freeform entry, "Reflections on an Emotional Journey to Ground Zero."
From journal Valentine's Weekend in New York City
April 9, 2004
From journal My Trip to the 2003 World Series