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. The church is very large in size, covering two full city blocks and measuring 100 square feet wide, with the Nave seating nearly 2,000 worshipers. The tower, which houses offices, meeting rooms and the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon, is 20 stories tall, measuring an impressive 392 feet tall. It even houses the world’s largest tuned bell which weighs 20 tons! 

Construction of the Riverside Church NYC began in 1927 and the first service was held in October of 1930. 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 at Riverside Church NYC

  • 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 his welcoming ceremony
  • Marian Wright-Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund who spoke about the need to provide quality healthcare to all children
  • 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 Handbell Choir, plus theater performances at the Riverside Theatre.

Inside the Nave worship sanctuary, you will find exquisitely detailed carvings, engravings and stained glass. The floor of the chancel features a Labyrinth adapted from the maze at Chartres, one of only a few known medieval designs like it. The Christ Chapel is a beautiful enclave designed after the eleventh-century fortress church of St. Nazaire at Carcassonne, giving it a distinctive difference architectural aesthetic than the rest of the church.

Music at Riverside Church NYC

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 performs each Sunday morning from September to June and sings a full range of choral repertoire from classical composers such as Mendelssohn, Handel, and Howells, to American composers and spirituals.

Art at Riverside Church NYC

The only original Renaissance windows within the church are In the Narthex and the 16th century Flemish windows are most likely from a church that was destroyed during the French Revolution. Later the English inscriptions were added. The stained-glass windows depict key events, miracles, and parables throughout the life of Christ. Visitors will find a Flemish Transitional tapestry dating back to the late 15th or 16th century that illustrates a religious ceremony for King Clovis the First while another tapestry from the French Renaissance (late 16th or 17th century) illustrates a large feast that is said to be at the return of the Prodigal Son.

Visiting Riverside Church NYC

You can see the Riverside Church on our Bronx tour!

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This page was edited by Steven Thomas