Open House NY 2014- Part 2

After visiting Central Synagogue, we hopped on the subway to 29th street to the church known as “The Little Church Around the Corner”.

We had a wonderful tour guide. One of the fascinating things about churches is that the buildings themselves can  deliver  a strong theological message--not just a general religious one but one that is particularly denominational.


I know that my usual topic is Jewish ritual art, so if you do not want to read about theological splits in the Protestant church then just skip this post.

I grew up not far from the spot of land where the Pilgrims first set foot on this continent. The Puritans were essentially  interested in creating a further reformation of the Anglican church.They saw the lushness of the churches and the vestments and even the church service to be on the slippery slope to what they saw as the great evil, Catholicism.

The Puritan desire to seek the divine through the austere expressed itself architecturally. Their churches  are exercises in restraint , the walls are white,  windows are clear, decorations are few. 

The Church of the Transfiguration on 29th street, also known as “ The Little Church Around the Corner” is a reaction against Puritan and Congregational sensibilities. The first rector of the church wanted to reclaim the Anglican lushness that the Puritans rejected. So he brought back stained glass windows, statues, gilding and even incense ( How Popish!!)  to his church.

Visually, it’s a party. Here’s the floor.



Our tour guide described the building as growing like a cucumber vine.  old and new elements mingle comfortably with one another. SAM_3187SAM_3188SAM_3189


Yes, both the use of pattern and of color are similar to the slightly later central synagogue


The ceiling timbers were simply amazing.I could have looked at them all day.SAM_3195


I loved that the ribbons painted on the columns were done freehand. I love the bit of wobble. it’s always nice to see evidence of a real human hand at work.SAM_3196


The church had a display of some of the vestments. I am a member of a sewing discussion group on the internet. Several of my friends on that list make liturgical garments . I made sure to take lots of photos for them.


SAM_3198SAM_3199The shoulder piece here is a brocade that has been pumped up with applique and embroidery.


Couched gold cord always looks spectacular. it’s not all that difficult to do and packs a whallop of a punch visually.



This church is famous for it’s connection to the theatre community. I would not be surprised if these vestments were produced in a costume shop.

Here are some other random bits of beautiful decorative bits from the church.





This is a 1933 window designed to celebrate world religions. The swastika is to symbolize Buddhism.


Our tour was followed by a concert of show tunes given by actors who are church members. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.


  1. Absolutely marvelous. How I would have loved to been with you that afternoon. I love all your reports - they make you / me feel like I was there - they are so vivid, so real, so in the moment. Liz in Tucson

  2. Fascinating. In your line up of photos, the two photos with the burgundy vestments caught my eye with the similarly bearded man in the painting on the left and the person in the background on the right.

  3. Elizabeth...glad to take you along on the visit!
    Sandy - that was our tour guide... a member of the congregation.


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