NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An old Catholic basilica in Manhattan has revived the chance of a traditional burial program.
The crypt closed years ago when the church ran out of room, but a new space is on the way complete with a multi-million dollar price tag.
As CBS2’s Emily Smith explained, the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral on Mulberry Street is the only basilica in Manhattan, making it one of the most sacred places.
It’s a prime location for Catholics to pray and the deceased to rest in peace.
“Including the Delmonico family, Thomas Eckert who was the president of Western Union, and a confidant of Abraham Lincoln,” director of ministry Frank Alfieri said, “Two Septembers ago, Msgr. Marinochi was buried here. He was 103-years-old. That was the last burial.”
Alfieri’s talking about a limited edition burial ground underneath the church. It’s known as the catacombs, or the crypts — hidden behind tall wooden doors, and stone walls 4 ft thick.
Some crypts house 20 bodies.
“What’s very important, and an honor, is to be connected to this church fro an eternity,” Alfieri said.
Now, for the first time, the general public can use the crypt as a burial site. Prior to Monday, it had been reserved for church clergy and prominent families of the catholic church — dating back to the 1800s. Karen King recently paid $10,000 to store her late husband — Johnny Cha Cha –known as the mayor of Little Italy’s ashes there.
“When you come down here it is a calm you never experience anywhere else. Now I know why Cha Cha wanted to be here,” she said.
Aside from ashes being stored there’s currently room for just six bodies, but it will cost a fortune. The last vault will cost about $7-million. It’s money Alfieri said will go toward repairing an antique 1868 pipe organ.
“It’s a priceless instrument and we need over a million dollars to fix it, and we were trying to come up with a way to support that effort,” he explained.
The church decided to open up the catacombs and make room for one more family.
“I don’t have $7-million, but if I did I would need Cha Cha’s advice on that,” King said.
It may sound morbid, but worth it if you believe in the afterlife, and want to rest in peace or visit a loved one in the holiest place in town.
In addition to the crypt, St. Patrick’s is home to the only catholic cemetery in Manhattan. It has burials that date back to the late 1700s.