St. John's is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. Its floor space, which has room enough for 6,000 persons seated, could encompass two football fields. The structure's vaulted ceiling is 17 stories high. On the West Front is the Rose Window, 40 feet wide and set with over 10,000 pieces of stained glass. Its rambling 13-acre site includes a number of memorials to poets, writers and artists.
The vigorous performing arts program features several dance, theater and music companies in residence; the Paul Winter Consort, which usually performs twice a year to sell-out crowds; and the annual New Year's Eve Peace Concert, which has become a popular event. On display throughout the cathedral is a remarkable collection of religious icons, tapestries and paintings from the 16th through 20th centuries. There is also an exhibition program featuring the work of local artists.
Although the cornerstone was laid in 1892, the cathedral remains unfinished. Over the years its style evolved from the Byzantine to the Romanesque to the French Gothic, which predominates. In 1982 construction resumed after a 41-year hiatus. It is the seat of the Episcopal bishop of New York, but has often served as a nondenominational gathering place for cultural and civic events.
In November of 2008, the cathedral reopened its north transept and its 8,500-pipe organ. Both were damaged by a large fire in late 2001 and took seven years to clean and repair. The rededication ceremony took place exactly 67 years after the cathedral was first opened.
School groups are invited to tour programs of the cathedral that reveal the symbolism, geometry and architectural features that tie in with the New York State curriculum.