St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Shrine, Washington Heights, NYC

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Located just to the south of sprawling Fort Tryon Park is a unique mid-century religious complex. The St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Shrine was built in 1956-57 to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims coming to pray to St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, the first American citizen to become a saint. The shrine is located on the campus of and immediately adjacent to Mother Cabrini High School, a school founded by Frances Cabrini in 1899. The current entrance leads from a parking area into a small lobby.

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From this direction, one enters the shrine from a side door near the front of the sanctuary. The formal entrance is actually accessed from a staircase along Cabrini Boulevard but this entrance seems to be closed to the general public now.

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This facade faces across the Hudson to New Jersey and presents a wealth of mid-century details (seen below) in mosaics, metalwork, decorative brickwork and stained glass.

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IMG_5953IMG_5950De Sina & Pellegrino were the architects of the shrine. They are not a prominent firm but did work in the New York area in the 1960s including a library branch in Brooklyn and a hospital in Schenectady. They also did a building outside of Philadelphia in the 1950s for Cabrini College, founded by St. Frances Cabrini’s order.

Next door to the entrance of the Cabrini Shrine is a mid-century addition to Mother Cabrini High School. Given the color of the brick and the metalwork, it is likely that De Sina and Pellegrino were also responsible for this addition.

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When visiting the shrine, the interior should not be missed. Decoration includes colorful mosaics, inlaid floors, and an elaborate lighting fixture over the body of the saint. Some good images of the interior can be found here.

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