Visitors can be forgiven for gaping upward as they gaze towards the main sanctuary at Garden City's Cathedral of the Incarnation.
Ceilings in cathedrals in Rome and Paris are supported by flying buttresses, and are meant to inspire awe just as much as they did 130 years ago when Long Islanders first worshipped there.
It is said that the Cathedral of the Incarnation is a place where heaven and earth meet, says the Very Rev. Michael Sniffen, dean of the Cathedral and a guide for what may be Long Island’s most unusual historic tour.
Although the cathedral is home to the largest Episcopal church in the United States, it isn’t necessary to belong to this church’s 900-member membership to take the tour. Anyone can step back in time with Sniffen for a whirlwind tour of Long Island's past boasting museum-quality artifacts, secret passageways and — much like at other hallowed historic sites — a spooky legend.
At an afternoon tour, Sniffen said Garden City wasn't intended to have a cathedral. Following their founder Alexander T. Stewart's death in 1876, Cornelia Clinch Stewart, the widow of Alexander T. Stewart, decided to build a cathedral in his memory. Sniffen adds that when it was completed eight years later and dedicated in 1885, the nearly 200-foot-tall brown sandstone edifice was the tallest building on Long Island.
The Gothic Revival-style building features gargoyles on the exterior, reminiscent of medieval cathedral architecture. “The downspouts are all faces, with water coming out of their mouths,” Sniffen says, guiding guests through an ornate carving — and recently refurbished wood door — leading into the sanctuary.
Marble floors are polished brightly inside the sanctuary, which has enough seating for 600 people. They are adorned with the coats of arms of Irish immigrants Stewart and his wife, as well as other notables.
No church can lack music, in the case of the Cathedral of the Incarnation, in case you didn't know, this place is the venue for many concerts with musical instruments and extraordinary voices. This cathedral has an organ that was designed and built by the famous firm Casavant Freres Limitee, and it was located in the building a year after the inauguration of the place. This organ is considered to be the one with the largest pipes in all of Garden City and Long Island several bishops and members of the Stewart family are buried in the crypt chapel, which was also known as Chapel of the Resurrection, and this is the basis for a ghostly rumor.
The body of A.T. Stewart was stolen from inside a graveyard in Manhattan after he died. He was reportedly ransomed by Stewart’s wife for $20,000. Though there are doubts, they are both believed to be buried in unmarked graves under the altar of the Crypt Chapel.
According to Sniffen, “it’s one of those stories — who is buried in Stewart’s grave?” the grave was booby-trapped so if anyone tampered with it, the bells within would ring.”
To this day, those bells have remained silent for the Stewarts.
You can find the Cathedral of the Incarnation at 50 Cathedral Avenue in the city of Garden city, it can be visited every day until 4 in the afternoon, enter the page to know the schedule of the services if you want to live a spiritual experience close to God.
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