Art and Architecture

Originally founded as a “national” parish by and for the German residents of Manhattanville, the Church of St. Joseph of the Holy Family was dedicated in 1860 and is the oldest church building in continuous use north of 44th Street.

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St. Joseph’s Rundbogenstil design reflects both the ethnic makeup of its original congregation and the rural nature of its surroundings in the 19th century. The Rundbogenstil was developed in the early 19th century as an authentic German style and is characterized by round-arched openings, broad, smooth expanses of wall surface and simple ornament typically concentrated at the cornice and around windows and doors.

The simple design of the c. 1860 church features a single square bell tower and round-arched openings set within a framework of brick piers and bands. The

1889 -1890 addition by Peter and William Francis Herter retains the piers, bands and arched openings of the original in a more elaborate design that adds greater dimensionality through irregular massing.

The church remains largely unchanged. Prior to 1935 the stained-glass windows were replaced and the niche created above the entrance for a statue of St. Joseph, more recently the side entrance was altered to accommodate an accessibility ramp. Today St. Joseph of the Holy Family, in Harlem, serves a large multi-cultural community with masses being held in English, Spanish and French.

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Cross Discovery

When St. Joseph of the Holy Family started our Renew + Rebuild Campaign in 2017, we began the process of renovating and restoring all aspects of the Church. While contractors were repairing the north east wall by the altar to prime for paint this cross was uncovered. We believe this is an original painting created in 1889.

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Uganda Martyrs

In 1886, thirty-two men were burned in Namugongo for refusing to renounce their faith in Christianity. In 1877, evangelists had already converted several of the men from these tribes. When King Mwanga entered into power, he wished for all citizens to pledge their loyalty to him. There is a Church in Namugongo to honor St. Charles Lwanga and his companions. The Church celebrates their feast day on June 3rd.

Painting of the Holy Family

Painting of the Holy Family

The Church is open. We welcome your visit during the next mass or for a moment of prayer on your own.
See more of our historic art and architecture during your next visit.