Holy Innocents Church (New York City)

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Shrine and Parish Church of the Holy Innocents
Holy Innocents RCC W37 sun jeh.jpg
In 2012
Location128 West 37th Street, NYC
CountryUnited States
DenominationRoman Catholic
Functional statusActive
Architect(s)Patrick Keely
StyleGothic Revival
Years built1870
DioceseArchdiocese of New York
Vicar(s)Rev. Fr. Louis Van Thanh, Parrochial Vicar
Pastor(s)Rev. Fr. James L. P. Miara, Pastor
The Fashion Tower (currently)
General information
Architectural styleArt Deco
Town or city135 W 36th St, New York
CountryUnited States of America
Construction started1924[1]
Design and construction
ArchitectEmery Roth 19 West 40th Street

The Church of the Holy Innocents is a Roman Catholic parish church in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, located at 128 West 37th Street at Broadway, Manhattan, New York City.[2]


The parish was established in 1866. It was formed from portions of St. Stephen the Martyr, St. Michael's, Holy Cross, Cathedral and St. Columba's parishes. The first pastor was Father John Larkin, formerly of County Galway, Ireland by way of St. Michael's. He purchased a small frame Episcopal church on the corner of Broadway and 37th St. The old name was retained and the chapel converted for use until a new church building could be constructed. [3] The present edifice was dedicated on February 13, 1870.

As the city rapidly expanded northward the community, known as the "Tenderloin", teemed with immigrants from Europe. In 1872, A parochial school adjoining the church was built, staffed by the Sisters of Charity. Later, the Christian Brothers were enlisted to provide instruction. By the early 1900s the area was known for newspaper publishing (The New York Herald) and theaters (The Metropolitan Opera House (39th St)). Holy Innocents was called the "actor's church". Eugene O'Neill, the playwright, was baptized in the church in 1888.

Pastor Rev. Dr. Richard Brennan transferred here in 1890 from being pastor since 1875 of St. Rose of Lima's Old Church (New York City),[4] after the death of the former pastor, Rev. Larkin.[5]The parish debt being paid off, the church was consecrated by Archbishop Corrigan on February 12, 1901.

In the early 1900s, the parish owned three buildings behind the church, one serving as the rectory and the others bringing in some income from boarders. By 1910, the area went through a profound change as the tenements were rapidly replaced by imposing commercial buildings.[6] With its congregation dispersed, Holy Innocents faced financial difficulties. On December 18, 1924 The New York Times reported that the Church had sold the three buildings "as a site for a twenty-story office building."[7] The property was purchased by Morris Rosenstein, a dealer in cotton fabric, with a business on Bleeker Street. Rosenstein built a twenty-storey storage and loft building at 135-9 West 36th Street to designs by the eminent Emery Roth.

When Joyce Kilmer's daughter Rose (1912–1917) was stricken with infantile paralysis shortly after birth, Kilmer would stop by the church "every morning for months" on his way "to the office and prayed for faith".[8][9]

Present day[edit]

In addition to serving as a regional parish, the church has since 2009 been a location for daily Mass in the 1962 Roman Missal form, recognized in Pope Benedict XVI's 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum as an extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.[10] While most churches have more Masses on Sundays than on weekdays, Holy Innocents' has three Masses on Sundays (two of them in the Tridentine form), three on Saturdays (two in the post-Vatican II form), but on Monday to Friday five each day (only one in Tridentine form).[11] Holy Innocents is the oldest church in the Garment District.


  • Rev. John Larkin (d.1890)[5]
  • Rev. Dr. Richard Brennan (1890-1893) former pastor of St. Rose of Lima's Old Church (New York City) from 1875-1890[12]
  • Rev. Michael C. O'Farrell (January 1894 - ?)[13]
  • Rev. Msgr. Aloysius C. Dineen[14]
  • Rev. George Rutler (admin) (2013 - 2014)
  • Rev. Leonard Villa (2014 - 2016)
  • Rev. James L.P. Miara (2016 - Present)


Designed by Patrick C. Keely in the Gothic Revival style, the cornerstone was laid on June 20, 1869. The building was constructed of Ohio and Belleville mixed stone. The interior is noted for the high altar of white marble that is surmounted by a fresco of the Crucifixion by Constantino Brumidi. The church was dedicated on Sunday, February 13, 1870; music provided by the Seventh Regiment Band.[13]

During Father O'Farrell's tenure two side altars of Carrara marble were installed. The Church has twenty stained glass windows from Munich; however subsequent building in the area has somewhat dimmed the interior.[13]

"The Return Crucifix"[edit]

According to a popular account, one day, artist Charles Bosseron Chambers stopped by Holy Innocents for Mass. Afterwards he observed a young man praying before a life-size crucifix and immediately made a quick sketch. In later speaking to the man, Chambers learned that he was a Frenchman who had drifted away from religion since coming to New York, but was now heading back to fight in World War I, and had prayed for a return to the faith. Chambers produced an oil painting from the sketch,[9][15] which was subsequently "...reproduced by one of the largest publishing companies in color and sepia, and [had] decided success."[16] After the war, Chambers was later able to make contact with the soldier, who told him that having survived the war, he had entered a monastery. The refurbished crucifix, now termed "The Return Crucifix", is one of two shrines at the church, the other being of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, the Madonna of New York.[17] There is also a stained glass rendition of Chamber's painting in the choir loft.


  1. ^ a b Office for Metropolitan History, "Manhattan NB Database 1900-1986," (Accessed 25 Dec 2010).[dead link]
  2. ^ The World Almanac 1892 and Book of Facts (New York: Press Publishing, 1892), p.390.
  3. ^ Remigius Lafort, S.T.D., Censor, The Catholic Church in the United States of America: Undertaken to Celebrate the Golden Jubilee of His Holiness, Pope Pius X. Volume 3: The Province of Baltimore and the Province of New York, Section 1: Comprising the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn, Buffalo and Ogdensburg.. (New York City: The Catholic Editing Company, 1914), p.330.
  4. ^ Lafort, p. 369.
  5. ^ a b "Father Larkin's Successor," New York Times, January 13, 1891 (Retrieved 20 May 2011); Excerpt: "Dr. Richard Brennan, who for twenty years has been of the Roman Catholic Church of St. Rose of Lima on Cannon Street, has been transferred to the Church of St Rose of Lima, on Cannon Street, has been transferred to the Church of the Holy Innocents on West Thirty-seventh Street, to fill the vacancy caused by the recent death of the Rev. John Larkin. Dr. Brennan is a native of this city and graduate of St. Francis Xavier's College. He made his theological studies at St. John's College, Fordham, and was ordained by Archbishop Hughes in 1857. Dr. Brennan will be succeeded in the pastorate of the Church of St. Rose of Lima by the Rev. Edward T. McGinley, who is also a graduate of St. Francis Xavier's College. He was formerly pastor of the Church of the Sacred Heart in Highland Falls, New York."
  6. ^ "History", Shrine and Parish Church off the Holy Innocents
  7. ^ Miller, Tim. "Emery Roth's 1925 Fashion Tower -- No. 135-9 W. 36th Street", Daytonian in Manhattan, November 8, 2014
  8. ^ Letter from Joyce Kilmer to Father James J. Daly, January 9, 1914, in Holliday, Robert Cortes (ed.) and Kilmer, Joyce. Poems, Essays and Letters in Two Volumes. (New York: George H. Doran, 1918 – published posthumously).
  9. ^ a b Chessman, Stuart. "The Churches of New York XXXIX: Commuters, a Shrine and the Traditional Mass", The Society of St. Hugh of Cluny, June 30, 2013
  10. ^ The Society of St. Hugh of Cluny » Post Topic » New Daily Low Mass in Manhattan Sthughofcluny.org, (Retrieved 14 Feb 2014).
  11. ^ The Shrine & Parish Church of the Holy Innocents, New York, NY (Retrieved August 2019)
  12. ^ Remigius Lafort, S.T.D., Censor, The Catholic Church in the United States of America: Undertaken to Celebrate the Golden Jubilee of His Holiness, Pope Pius X. Volume 3: The Province of Baltimore and the Province of New York, Section 1: Comprising the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn, Buffalo and Ogdensburg.. (New York City: The Catholic Editing Company, 1914), p.369.
  13. ^ a b c "Church of the Holy Innocents", NYC AGO
  14. ^ 50 Priests Give Last Rites At 'Normandie' Fire; Catholic Hospitals Also Lend Aid The Observer, Rockford, Illinois, Feb. 22, 1942. (Retrieved 14 Feb 2014)
  15. ^ "The Return", Scribner's Magazine - frontispiece, January 1919, Vol. LXV, No. 1
  16. ^ "With the Artists", American Art News, Vol. 17, No. 26, Art Foundation Press, April 5, 1919, p. 11
  17. ^ "Mission", The Shrine and Parish Church of the Holy Innocents

Coordinates: 40°45′7.85″N 73°59′17.08″W / 40.7521806°N 73.9880778°W / 40.7521806; -73.9880778

External links[edit]