Riverside Church, New York City. Rockefeller Memorial

Riverside Church, New York City. Rockefeller Memorial

Situated at one of the highest points in New York City, and covering an expanse of two city blocks, the Riverside Church has been likened to “the Vatican for America's mainstream Protestants.”

The need for the church was born out of a split between fundamentalists and a modernist brand of Christianity. John D. Rockefeller Jr., a leader in the push for Christian unity, donated millions of dollars for Riverside's construction. Rockefeller, along with pacifist preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick, envisioned a place of worship with three guiding principles: 1) an interdenominational setting, 2) a large church in an important neighborhood, and 3) a setting open to all to all who professed the faith.

The cornerstone for the Riverside Church was laid in 1927, and services began in 1930.

Designed by architects Henry C. Pelton and Charles Collens, the limestone structure is modeled on the 13th Century Gothic cathedral in Chartres, France. The maze on the floor, adapted from the same, is one of the few such designs in existence, said to represent Christ's path to Calvary.

The building is distinguished by the tower, which reaches a height of 392 feet, with an open-air observation platform offering a 360-degree panorama of the city and the Hudson Valley. The Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon was a gift from Rockefeller in remembrance of his mother. Containing 74 bronze bells, it is supposedly the largest carillon in the world. Every quarter of an hour, the "Parsifal Quarters," the Holy Grail motif from Wagner's opera, sounds automatically, while the bourdon bell rings on the hour.

The church features three paintings by the German artist Heinrich Hofmann, also a gift from Rockefeller: "Christ in Gethsemane," "Christ in the Temple" and "Christ and the Rich Young Man.”

Since it's inception the church has been a committed to promoting social justice, hosting a number of key speakers, including Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “Beyond Vietnam” speech from the pulpit. More recently, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan addressed the city following the events of September 11th.

Riverside Church
490 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10027