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St. John the Divine, Upper West Side

1047 Amsterdam Avenue
Upper West Side
New York City
Tel: 212 316 7540's insider take:

Affectionately known as "St. John the Unfinished" by inhabitants of its Morningside Heights neighborhood, the world's largest Gothic cathedral has staunchly remained under construction since the laying of its cornerstone in 1892. Construction was already slated to continue for decades when a 2001 fire forced yet another halt. The cathedral's cavernous nave—the length of a football field—will be closed until late June 2008 while cleaners scrub soot off its stones. Later in the summer, visitors will gain access to previously concealed attractions such as the Great Rose Window (a 40-foot stained-glass masterpiece); the Poets' Corner (which honors America's literary elite); and 13 other themed bays saluting pursuits both religious and secular. In turn, the east end choir and chapel will close for the reinstallation of the Great Organ, whose 8,035 smoke-damaged pipes were removed for cleaning: November 30, 2008, will see the grand reopening of the entire interior, when regular concerts will resume there. Outside, on the grounds, you'll find live peacocks and the Peace Fountain, a bizarre sculptural piece depicting an animal version of Armageddon that includes giraffes, a smiling sun and moon, an enormous crab, and a decapitated Satan. On the first Sunday in October, St. John's holds its annual Blessing of the Animals in recognition of St. Francis's feast day. Tours are held Tuesday through Sunday. Call to inquire about the Vertical Tour, to take in heavenly views accessed by a hellish climb up and down an 11-story circular staircase.

Tours Tuesdays through Saturdays at 11 am and 1 pm, Sundays at 2 pm.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.