On first visit, many folks remark about the interior: “It doesn’t look very Catholic…was it always a Catholic church?" The answer is yes. This edifice opened in March of 1833 and resembles the simplicity of that period. The mural, a copy of the upper portion of Raphael’s “Transfiguration of Christ with Moses and Elijah” by an unknown traveling artist, was discovered painted on the wall at the time of the renovation. The first mass featured music by an orchestra and it was estimated that a third of the congregation were of Protestant traditions who came to see and hear the novelty of an orchestra in church. With excellent acoustics, the church has continued high quality music programs, with various choruses and chorales performing frequently. Its own adult vested choir sings the classic Catholic repertoire each Sunday at the 11:30 am mass, and its contemporary choir, composed of university students, performs at the 6 pm mass.
Another original element besides the mural is the balcony railing. Parish lore has it that the balcony was used as a hiding place before the Civil War for slaves trying to escape the South and avoid the bounty hunters of our fair city. The life of this Parish has been traced in frank detail by Thomas Shelley in his “Greenwich Village Catholics: the Evolution of an Urban Faith Community, 1829-2002.”
When the Parish and the New York University ministries merged in 2003, the Archdiocese invited the Order of Preachers (the “Dominicans”) to care for the new composite. Presently, four friars serve Church of Saint Joseph in Greenwich Village.