Saint John the Baptist Church first opened its doors in 1878 and quickly established itself as Brooklyn’s spiritual center and largest Russian Orthodox Cathedral. Nowadays it serves as a home to many international residents while providing a place of prayer for countless others.
Early in its history, the Roman Catholic hierarchy of Rome showed an unwillingness to accommodate Eastern Rite Christians. Ultimately this turned into open hostility towards them.
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St. John the Baptist Church History
Established in 1878, St. John the Baptist has evolved into a community of people who refuse to accept the hardships that confront their neighborhoods.
Over its 125 year existence, this church community has seen many significant events and transformations. It has served as a space for spiritual and social growth, healing and hope.
Carpatho-Russian immigrants founded the church in search of a better life. They held their initial services at the Stec home (still standing today behind the church), then rented an old Baptist church to convert into an Orthodox congregation.
In 1870, a Capuchin priest was assigned to the parish and began construction on an expansive new structure. By 1891, it had been renamed Russian Greek Catholic Church of Saint John the Baptist and stands today as a testament to faith and pride for those within its borders.
St. John the Baptist Church Music
At Saint John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Church, music is an integral part of worshipping God. It adds to the experience of those in attendance and adds beauty to the Liturgy.
Saint John the Baptist Choir welcomes both members and non-members alike who wish to join in its music ministry. By working together, songs of praise and worship are presented as musical offerings in praise of our Lord.
Cathedral Music staff members offer a wealth of professional and educational experience that adds depth and diversity to the choir program. Kent Tritle, one of America’s foremost choral conductors, serves as Director of Cathedral Music and Organist.
St. John the Baptist Church Architecture
This majestic Gothic church draws people of all backgrounds to worship in its sanctuary. Situated close to Penn Station and the Empire State Building, it has become one of Manhattan’s most beloved and historic churches.
In 1821, a small wooden structure was constructed as the first church. Unfortunately, floods destroyed it two years later in 1822, prompting its replacement with a more permanent building two years later.
Patrick Keely, an Irish-born architect renowned for his work in Catholic architecture during the late 1800s, designed the current church. He built nearly 600 churches and is credited with designing some of America’s most iconic Gothic and Romanesque Revival structures.
This church boasts a semicircular apse, reredos and stunning marble altar. It is covered with mosaics from floor to dome. In the main sanctuary there is also an exact reproduction of Raphael’s “La Disputa del Sacramento,” depicting an animated discussion among theologians regarding Eucharist.
St. John the Baptist Church Services
Saint John the baptist parish church was organized in 1840 as New York City’s second German Catholic Church and is a masterpiece of French-Gothic architecture.
Fr Benjamin served as the first pastor at St. John the Baptist for one year, followed by Fr Gregory Stefchak (who stayed until 1922).
In February 1923, Rev Joseph Havriliak arrived and began organizing the parish choir. During his tenure, he laboriously expanded the repertoire of sacred music by transcribing the congregation’s Carpatho-Russian plainchant into new and more elaborate melodies.
In 1933, the parish was granted its own church by faithful donors and consecrated under Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. Surrounded by Capuchin Monastery of St. John the Baptist on 30th Street and 31st Street, it also houses a small shrine dedicated to Capuchin Friar Padre Pio.