Major Restoration Has Been Underway For A Year At Iconic House Of Worship

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Wednesday welcomed parishioners and visitors with shiny new doors.

The massive bronze front doors have been restored and reinstalled, after a three-month conservation and restoration that cost around $500,000.

Each 16 1/2-foot by 5 1/2-foot door weighs 9,200 pounds and is decorated with sculptures of saints and other important religious figures, including Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint.

The work involved removing seven layers of paint and restoring the original patina, according to Lucia Popian of G&L Popian Inc., a family-owned business in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City. She said she, husband Gabriel and their son did all the work by hand.

Popian said the doors had two main areas of decay: One was man-made — the layers of paint — and the other environmental, including corrosion from pollution and water infiltration.

“The process was very long. We had to take layers and layers off,” she said, before restoring the reddish-brown color of the patina, which Popian called the door’s “skin of protection.”

The doors are the second set to grace the landmark Fifth Avenue edifice. The original doors were wooden.

The current doors were blessed by Cardinal Spellman and opened for the first time two days before Christmas 1949. They were designed by Charles Maginnis, and John Angel was commissioned to create the figures.

The Popian family also is restoring the cathedral’s smaller sets of bronze doors and has already restored the crosses on top of each of the Fifth Avenue spires.

The Gothic Revival-style Roman Catholic cathedral is undergoing a 3-year, $177 million interior and exterior restoration that began last year.

When the restoration began, the Archdiocese said the marble and granite facade of the cathedral was pitted, cracked and dirty. The plaster ceiling had cracks, and the stained glass windows needed re-leading.

To date, the cathedral has raised $70 million for the effort.

During the restoration — the most extensive since the 1940s — the church remains open.

Named after the patron saint of Ireland, the midtown Manhattan cathedral was completed in 1878 and is the seat of the Archdiocese of New York. While it is not the largest Catholic church in the United States — the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., holds that title — it is one of the best known and most visited.

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