The Cathedral of the Incarnation, at Garden City, N. Y., the memorial of Mrs. Cornelia M. Stewart to her husband, Alexander T. Stewart, was opened April 9, 1885, by impressive religious ceremonies. At precisely 11 o'clock the chimes in the cathedral tower rang out a clear and resonant peal, and the people thronged into the building through its tower and transept entrances.
The effort has been made to reproduce in the cathedral a pure type of the Gothic architecture of the thirteenth century, without its ruder and less refined characteristics. The strained and coarse images designed to illustrate "the world, the flesh, and the devil," which seem so strange and unapt to American visitors to the great Continental cathedrals, are almost entirely omitted in this reproduction. The carving, too, in deference to the more sensitive tastes and better skill of this age, is far more artistic and natural than in the old originals. Flowers in stone are made to resemble flowers, and heads are fashioned after a human pattern, and clusters of figures are modeled in a congruous and modern manner. But aside from changes of this kind, the new and magnificent edifice upon Hempstead Plains is a perfect example of the elaborate and picturesque Gothic structures of mediaeval days.
It is built of brown sandstone raised in colossal blocks. The spire, floriated richly and graduated with a precise symmetry, rises to an extreme altitude of 220 feet 6 inches. The extreme length is about 170 ft. The massive oaken front doors are carved handsomely, and contain the arms of the Stewart family, the Clinch family (Mrs. Stewart's maiden name), the Hilton family, and those of Bishop Littlejohn, the Episcopal head of the Long Island Diocese. The porch or tower entrance, which is the main entrance to the building, is paved with white marble. In the center of the floor the Stewart arms are enameled in brass, showing a shield with a white and blue check, supported by the figures of a wild Briton and a lion. The crest is a pelican feeding its young, and the motto is "Prudentia et Constantia." These heraldic figures are made a special feature of the main aisle. Directly in the center of the auditorium floor the Stewart and Clinch arms are impaled, enameled in brass. On the floor in the choir the Hilton arms are placed. They bear the patriotic motto "Ubi libertas ibi patria," with a deer for a crest. The floor of the ante-chancel presents the arms of the diocese. Its insular character is especially prominent.
The shield of barry wavy contains three crosslets, the peculiar sign of the cathedral. It is supported by dolphins. The crest is a ship, and under all is the sacred motto, "I will set his dominion in the sea." The workmanship of all these arms is superb.
By far the most wonderful works of art in the edifice are the windows of stained glass and the musical facilities. Every window presents a theme suggestive of the Incarnation. The windows of the porch present several of the Old Testament characters and events which prefigured the birth of Christ, and over the door leading to the nave are figures of Adam and Eve and of Abraham and Sarah. The four windows on the south side of the nave show the Annunciation, the dream of Joseph, the salutation of Elizabeth, and the refusal of the stable to the parents of the infant Redeemer. In the first window of the transept is presented the inn-keeper's refusal of refuge to Joseph and Mary. The great window of the south transept, in all about thirty feet high, one of the largest windows in the world, shows the family of Jesse, the ancestor of Jesus. Jesse is resting at full length; above him is King David, and all around are figures of his descendants leading up to the Virgin Mary with the Holy Child in her arms. Above all, in the apex of the windows, are the emblems used in prophecies of Christ's coming. The third window of the south transept shows the Nativity, with the Babe in the manger. Two windows in the choir are chosen with special reference to the regular service of the church.
The first represents the appearance of the star in the east to the shepherds of Bethlehem, introducing the "Gloria in Excelsis," and the second shows the presentation of Christ in the temple, suggesting the "Nunc Dimittis," the "Magnificat," and the "Benedictus." Then beautiful representations are given in the north transept windows of the Magi bringing gifts to the infant Saviour, and the wise men before King Herod. The windows of the nave show the flight into Egypt, the massacre of the innocents, and the return to Nazareth.
The north window of the transept is the most magnificent of all. It presents Christ in glory, thus suggesting the "Te Deum." Jesus sits enthroned with the angels and archangels, prophets, apostles and martyrs of the church in all ages bending in adoration before Him, while the heavenly choir are waving palms and chanting music in honor of Heaven's King. The smaller windows under the roof show the hierarchy of heaven indicating by music and dances the joy of the celestial world at the scenes of the Incarnation depicted below. Upon a bright, sunny day the cathedral is made exquisitely beautiful by the mellowed radiance of these windows. They were designed and manufactured by Clayton & Bell, of London, and are esteemed to present the perfection of their work. Their colors, rich and varied, blend in perfect harmony, and the intricacy of the groupings makes each one as interesting as an oil painting.
Six different organs have been built in different parts of the building. The most important of these is the great organ in the north apse. It is furnished with four keyboards and 124 stops, with twenty-four combination stops that admit of more than a million combinations of sound. On either side of the choir is another organ, with a fourth of great power in the crypt, a fifth in the tower, and an echo organ built under the vaulting of the roof. This produces a soft and weird music. All the organs are operated from the keyboard of the great apse organ, which also plays the chimes of thirteen bells in the tower. The choir instruments are made to correspond by means of iron tubes filled with wind by a bellows engine in the crypt of the apse. A second engine in the crypt of the tower operates the bellows that inflate the instruments in the crypt, the tower, and the vaulting. All the organs and the chimes are connected by electric wires, about twenty-six miles of which are employed, supplied with electricity by a motor in the tower engine room. Sublime and grand are the only terms which can suggest the effect of the volume of harmony produced by these instruments in united action.
They were made by Hilborne L. Roosevelt, of this city.
The ante-chancel contains the bishop's throne, the dean's seat, and the stalls of the clergy and canons, all of carved mahogany. A superb work of art is the altar, in the chancel, which is separated from the ante-chancel by a heavy bronze railing. The altar is of statuary marble manufactured by Cox & Sons, of London. Its corner columns are of black marble, supported by others of flecked marble, with panels of Sienna and Griote. Between the panels are rich carvings, done in Antwerp, representing the temptation and fall in Eden; Abraham's offering of his son Isaac; Moses raising the brazen serpent in the wilderness; the annunciation to the Virgin; the birth scene in the stable; the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. The slab of the altar is inlaid with five crosslets, representing the five wounds, and the symbol "I. H. S."
None of the cathedral windows are richer than those which circle the chancel. They present Christ as the Good Shepherd and the apostolic college. An excellent piece of chiseling is done by Sibbel, the sculptor of this city, in the panels over the credence. They are figures of the high priest with a slain lamb, the type of the bloody sacrifice, and Christ with sheaves of wheat and clusters of grapes, the unbloody sacrifice. Beneath them is the text, "Thou art a prophet forever after the order of Melchisedec." The chancel is paved with red and yellow Sienna marble as center pieces, flanked with squares of red Griote and white marble, the whole bordered with strips of red and black marble. The ante-chancel is paved with blocks of red Griote and verd antique. Two magnificent pieces of statuary stand on either side of the transept. The first represents Religion holding a little model of the cathedral. The other is an image of Hope. They were done by Park, the Florentine sculptor.
In the south apse is the baptistery, built with a tower furnished with chimes. Its supporting columns are of Languedoc marble clustered with smaller ones of Sienna and verd antique. Six columns support the dome. Each is of a different marble, crowned with sculptured capitals in high relief. The windows are appropriate in theme. They represent Noah with the ark; the building of the ark; Moses holding the tables of the law; the passage of the Red Sea; John the Baptist; the Baptism of the eunuch; St. Philip, the deacon; and the Baptism of Christ. In the center of the room stands the font upon an octagonal base of two steps. Its pedestal and bowl are traced with symbolic carvings. Over it is a canopy of elaborately carved mahogany drawn into a spire bearing a gold crown, studded with rubies and amethysts.
At the foot of the chancel is the pulpit, of bronze, designed by Sibbel. Its base is surrounded by figures representing hearers of the Word. Mr. Sibbel has incorporated an anachronism in one of these figures that will be exceedingly interesting in coming years. It shows the features of Henry G. Harrison, of this city, the architect of the cathedral. The lectern stands on the other side of the ante-chancel, representing Christ blessing little children. Superb bronze columns with brass coronas of natural flowers support the roof of the building. The triforium is carved in the richest style with passion flowers, fuchsias, roses, and lilies.
In the crypt below are the robing rooms of the clergy and the choir and the Sunday-school room. Its windows show the arms of every American diocese. Beneath the choir is the chantry, furnished in carved oak. Adjoining this room is the famous mausoleum erected to the memory of Alexander T. Stewart. It is constructed of statuary marble, and consists of fourteen bays, at the angles of which are triple columns of the most richly colored imported marbles arched above the elegantly carved capitals, with open tracery, through which the headlights of the colored glass are seen. The subjects of the thirteen windows relate to the passion, death, resurrection, and subsequent appearances of Christ, and are executed in admirable design and color. They were made by Heaton, Butler & Bayne, of London. Above the window openings rises a dome-shaped ceiling, in carved marble, with a pendent canopy in the center. The pavement, of black and white marbles, radiates from the center of the sides of this polygonal structure, and a large white urn, delicately draped after Sibbel's designs, stands under the pendent canopy. It bears Mr. Stewart's name.
The two entrances to the mausoleum are guarded by open-work bronze gates of elegant design and workmanship. - N. Y. Tribune.