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Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Times Square, NYC
A Short History of Saint Mary's
What's a nice church like this doing in the middle of Times Square?
The official history of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin begins on December 3, 1868, when the incorporation certificate for The Society of the Free Church of Saint Mary the Virgin in the City of New York, constituted under the state’s Free Churches Act, was accepted for filing by the New York State Supreme Court.
The official history has to do with paperwork, but the real history of our parish can be said to have begun at the University of Oxford on July 14, 1833. It was on that day that John Keble, a priest and Oxford scholar, preached a sermon at the University Church of Saint Mary the Virgin in which he accused the Church of England of having lapsed into apostasy. The sermon and the ensuing issuance of the “Tracts For The Times” written by Keble’s associates, most famous among them John Henry Newman, called on the Anglican Church to reclaim its Catholic roots and to resist interference by the State. The Tractarians, as they were called, raised a storm of enormous controversy in the Church of England.
Since the 16th Century when King Henry VIII declared himself head of the Church in England (thereby avoiding direct oversight of the Pope) the Church of England officially still retained the traditional Catholic sacraments. Especially important among Catholic traditions was the apostolic succession of its bishops, that is, the notion that a primary symbol of the Catholic Church is its bishops in a line unbroken from the Apostles. The acts of Parliament that declared the Monarch, not the Pope, to be the Supreme Head of the Church in England addressed an institutional dispute between the Crown and the Papacy but did not create a new church. Yet most Anglicans had little interest in exploring this ambiguity, and most in England and later in the Episcopal Church in the United States, easily considered themselves Protestants. By the late 1800’s the Anglican Church had survived a stormy and often violent history; having finally achieved a calm that some thought fell short of the demands of Christian discipleship.
The Tractarians argued that to recover its faith, the Anglican Church must recover its Catholic heritage. This spirit drew adherents among the clergy and laity on both sides of the Atlantic. One of those clergy was a young priest named Thomas McKee Brown, whose vision was to build a church in New York City dedicated to expressing the full witness of Catholic thought in ritual and teaching within the Episcopal Church. Brown, at 25, was ordained to the priesthood in 1866 by the Right Reverend Horatio Potter, VI Bishop of New York, and for the next four years Father Brown served as curate and rector at churches in the diocese. While serving other parishes, his vision for a particularly Catholic parish only grew in intensity.
A year after his ordination, Father Brown brought his plan to Bishop Potter, who sested that a church was needed near Longacre Square on the west side of what is now Midtown. [Longacre Square was renamed Times Square in 1905 when the New York Times competed its building at 42nd Street and Broadway.] Experiencing one of the strokes of fortune that has followed Saint Mary’s through its existence, John Jacob Astor offered to give Father Brown three lots on West 45th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, “stipulating that the Church should be free, and positively orthodox in management and working.” That a church might be a “free” church meant that parishioners would not have to pay pew rents, which made an immediate social statement.
Father Brown accepted the offer and the church’s cornerstone was laid with appropriate ceremony at 228 West 45th Street on April 6, 1868. [Currently, this is the site of the Booth Theatre.] Later the same year, Father Brown and seven associates signed and filed the incorporation certificate. To make sure that there was no mistaking their intentions, they named their parish for Saint Mary the Virgin, the Blessed Mother of Jesus, openly challenging one of the uglier anti-Catholic prejudices of the day, and making no mistake that this was to be an Episcopal Church in the full Catholic Tradition.
Father Brown and his followers spent the next two years raising money to build the church. It was dedicated, and Father Brown was installed as its rector on December 8, 1870, the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Bishop Potter was unable to officiate at the service (there are indications that his views on Saint Mary’s were somewhat ambivalent, if not negative) and his place was taken by the Right Reverend Horatio Southgate, the Episcopal Church’s former missionary bishop to the Ottoman Empire.
Although money continued to be a problem (a recurring drama throughout Saint Mary’s history), Father Brown spared no expense in celebrating the Eucharist with full ritual, including a choir of 40 voices and a small orchestra. At a time when th
The Colosseum today is now a major tourist attraction in Rome with thousands of tourists each year paying to view the interior arena, though entrance for EU citizens is partially subsidised, and under-18 and over-65 EU citizens' entrances are free. There is now a museum dedicated to Eros located in the upper floor of the outer wall of the building. Part of the arena floor has been re-floored. Beneath the Colosseum, a network of subterranean passageways once used to transport wild animals and gladiators to the arena opened to the public in summer 2010.
The Colosseum is also the site of Roman Catholic ceremonies in the 20th and 21st centuries. For instance, Pope Benedict XVI leads the Stations of the Cross called the Scriptural Way of the Cross (which calls for more meditation) at the Colosseum on Good Fridays.
In 2011, Diego Della Valle founder of Tod's shoe firm, entered into an agreement with local officials to sponsor a €25 million restoration of the Colosseum. Work is planned to begin at the end of 2011 and take up to two and a half years.
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