Riverside Church Highlights | TopView Sightseeing

Riverside Church

Location: 490 Riverside Dr, New York, NY 10027

The Riverside Church NYC is situated at one of the highest points of New York City, overlooking the Hudson River and 122nd Street, just across the street from another famous site, Grant's Tomb. It is 100 feet wide and covers two city blocks. Construction began in 1927 and the first service was held in October of 1930. The Nave seats nearly 2,000 worshipers. The 20-floor tower, rising to a height of 392 feet, contains offices, meeting rooms, and the 74-bell Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon. The carillon’s 20-ton bourdon bell is the largest tuned bell in the world.

Modeled after a 13th-century gothic cathedral in Chartres, France, Riverside Church is an interracial, interdenominational and international church built in Morningside Heights by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. The church has a rich tradition of providing a forum for important civic and spiritual leaders. Past speakers have included Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who preached his famous anti-Vietnam War sermon, “Beyond Vietnam,” from this pulpit, Bill Clinton, the Dalai Lama, Fidel Castro, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela who addressed the nation during an interfaith celebration welcoming him to America, Marian Wright-Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund spoke about the need to provide quality healthcare to all children and the well-known Dr. Tony Campolo delivered a sermon concerning affluence in America. This New York church plays host to music performances, including Sunday recitals of the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon, several choirs and the Hand bell Choir, plus theater performances at the Riverside Theatre.

Inside the Nave worship sanctuary, you will find exquisitely detailed carvings, engravings and stained glass. The Labyrinth on the floor of the chancel has been adapted from the maze at Chartres, one of the few such medieval designs in existence. The beautiful and intimate Christ Chapel, patterned after the eleventh-century Romanesque nave of the fortress church of St. Nazaire at Carcassonne, belongs architecturally to an earlier period than does the rest of the church.

Music at Riverside Church

With five choirs, a carillon, four organs and renowned musicians, guests are certain to hear music that enlivens and nourishes the soul. The Riverside Choir sings every Sunday morning September –June. The choir sings the full range of choral repertoire from classical composers such as Mendelssohn, Handel, and Howells, to American composers and spirituals.

Art at Riverside Church

In the Narthex are the only original Renaissance windows in the church. The 16th-century Flemish windows are from a church probably threatened or destroyed during the French Revolution. Later the English inscriptions were added. The windows illustrate events, miracles, and parables in the life of Christ. A Flemish Transitional tapestry of the late 15th or 16th-century pictures a religious ceremony in the life of King Clovis the First. A French Renaissance tapestry of the late 16th or 17th century depicts a feast, probably at the return of the Prodigal Son.

You can see the Riverside Church on our Bronx tour!


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This page was edited by Steven Thomas