Currently, I live in New York City. And walking around, daily you see so many old and beautiful churches everywhere. Most people however just seem to pass them by, but I’m always astounded by the incredible architecture of the buildings and how something so old looking can survive in such a fast paced, towering landscape.
A goal of mine, therefore, is to visit as many beautiful churches and religious institutions as the city has to offer.
The first church I went to is, I think, one of the most beautiful in the city. But without a doubt it is the most special to me: Our Lady of Pompeii, on Carmine Street and Bleecker in Greenwich Village.
This is the church that my great-grandmother would go and sit in everyday to pray. This is the church where my grandmother went to school as a little girl. And this is also the church where she and my grandfather got married. It is an absolutely gorgeous building, and a cultural landmark for the area.
Earlier in the week, on a bright and blustery March day, I ventured into the church and was quite blessed to have the entire space completely to myself.
The inside of the building is quite astounding. From the outside, the building is impressive, but the inside is remarkable in its beauty. The church is filled with murals and statuary everywhere. Gorgeous frescoes line the walls; altars are hidden in each alcove, besot by electric candles (which I did not like – I much prefer the real ones). When I visited, the colored light was pouring through the stain glass windows, only to disappear and reappear with each passing cloud from outside. It was breathtaking. And the spiritual energy in the place is physically palpable.
When I lived in California, there was a Catholic church near my house that sometimes I would go to to meditate in. I had asked my guru if it was alright to go to this church to do japa/pray and he said, Of course it was! The prayers of the past linger there, they sanctify the place and provide the best environment for spiritual practice; and obviously as well, being in a church I think one’s mind naturally turns toward God.
Alone in the church, I walked around looking at the beautiful altars and the incredible murals that adorned the church. Finally, I sat on a bench, took out my prayer beads and began to do a little meditation. In the midst of this, the most astounding thing happened: from deep down below, in the basement of the church, the voices of a men’s choir began to rise up into the empty hall, echoing off the painted walls of Our Lady. It was an incredibly moving experience to hear such ethereal voices singing; and I was the only witness to this phenomenal moment. I tried to record the singing, but the city cried out a little louder, and all I ended up saving was the blaring of car horns from outside.
I sat for a long while just listening to the singing. It was such a lucky moment to have been there at the perfect time and to have had the church entirely to myself. Indeed, my visit turned out to be so much more than I expected! I can now see why my great-grandmother visited the place almost daily ❤
I am definitely planning on visiting some more churches in the city, and I promise to get some better quality pictures in! As beautiful as the light was, it was hard to capture inside. Have any of you ever visited our Lady of Pompeii? Are their any churches/temples/mosques/etc. you recommend I visit next? Have any of you ever had a similarly momentous experience visiting a religious building? Let me know in the comments below! And be sure to check out my instagram for more pictures in the future!