On Location at St. Bartholomew's
Updated: Jul 4, 2022
If you ever walked down Park Avenue, north of Grand Central Station, in the early hours of the afternoon, you probably saw the reflection of the sun illuminating the bas-relief’s panels at St. Bartholomew's.
The church first open for service in 1835, in the corner of Lafayette and 3rd Street. In 1876 it was moved to Madison and 44th, a new building designed by the same architect of the St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The present location is its third. Perhaps the most accomplished, the most beautiful.
For the bas-reliefs panels adorning the central doors and tympanum, Stanford White trusted Daniel Chester French who reached out to Andrew O'Connor who eventually became the primary sculptor for this project. In 1906, French wrote to Homer St. Gaudens saying that “the commission was given to me with the understanding that O’Connor was to do most of the work. I supervised him carefully at the start and for a number of months but finally the doors really became his work and I do not claim any great amount of credit for them.” I was not aware of the details, and thought the credit was all French. Documenting a sculptor on film has its delicate corners, this was certainly one.
But it was French the one who brought me here, the one who reminded me of the beauty of St. Bart’s. I once saw Penelope walk pass the robust, yet delicate doors seeking solace. I dared not disturb the woman I loved, and waited across the street, facing East just as the faithful followers of the Prophet do when they hope for another day under the sun.