Analysis of Cathedral of All Saints, Albany

Cathedral of All Saints, Albany

The Cathedral of All Saints, Albany which is one of the historical architectural landmarks in New York is located on Elk Street in central Albany. The building was designed by Robert Gibson in 1880s and built in the style of Gotham. The building is one of the historical places registered in the National Register of Historic Places. The building has undergone several changes with the greatest change being the installation of the Greatest East Window which is considered as its most important organ. The building has beautiful wall mosaics in the Choir and Sanctuary, the Throne of the Bishop and the Pastoral staff. The beauty of the present building is further enhanced by a great Choir Arch. 

Purpose of the Cathedral

The Cathedral of All Saints is distinguishable from the ordinary church since the building is much larger and is similar to a Bishop’s church. The name ‘Cathedral’ adds a lot of dignity to the office of the Episcopal with the Bishop being the chief pastor. The main purpose of the Cathedral is to unite the diocese and bind the churches into a single unit. Since its inception, the main aim of the church is not to separate its congregations but rather to join them together. The cathedral is the first of all the Mother of the Diocese and any parish priest can attend the services. 

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History and Artistic Period

The building was built in the late 1800s after the Bishop and the members of the parish felt that property on Elk would be sufficient for the purpose of building the church. The money for laying the building foundation was secured and in June of 1872, the corner stone was laid and by the 1st of November the structure was in use. In 1873, legislation was passed that gave the Diocese powers to build and arrange the Cathedral church in Albany while following the laid out principles and doctrines together with other foundations

The Cathedral of All Saints was built between the periods of impressionism and realism but the artistic movement of buildings at that time was Gothic Revival. The characteristics of the architecture during that period included the application of historical styles and structural methods. The perception of the architects during this period when Cathedral of All Saints was built arose from the desire of continual of the predecessor’s style. Most of the traditional elements were put together and gave rise to a variety of styles including that of Gotham that the church adopted. 

Analysis of Architecture


The windows of All Saints Cathedral are filled with stained glasses which are either memorials or gifts. The fittings are specimens of modern art. To the west of the building is the Rose Window which was designed by John La Farge. There are six large windows located in the nave and were specifically meant to commemorate the Dutch families who were living in America. These windows were designed by Burlisson and Grills of London. The windows in the cathedral were specifically designed with the aim of commemorating the occurrences in the life of the Lord during his time on earth and the other significant lives such as angels and prophets whose history are identified by the church. The images of the angels and martyrs are contained within the transepts and the nave with the aisles having that of the Lord whiles the East Window summarizing the remaining. 

The Rose Window that hangs above the west entrance gives a representation of the Saints in Glory. The Virgin’s Window which is the located in the first nave has an image of Saint Agnes who was a martyr in the 14th Century. The other panels of the window show her image refusing to offer sacrifices to an inexistent god as well as her path to becoming a martyr by sword with the flames not burning her. The second window inscribed with the name Schuler has the image of Saint Margret who was the Queen of Scotland in A.D 1098. The upper part of the window gives a representation of her arriving the palace of King Malcolm with the middle part showing her meeting with the clergy from Scotland. The following panel of the window shows images of her death while holding a black cross to symbolize her strong faith. The cross has been regarded as one of the most sacred sapphires in Scotland. 

The other windows within the Cathedral include the Soldiers Window and the Angels Window. The soldier’s window has the name of Gansevoort inscribed and is has the image of Saint Alban who was a proto-martyr. Alban had been converted by a priest and the images in the window shows him dressed in a full attire of a Roman soldier and the helping the priest who was running away from persecution. The Angel’s window has the image of Saint Gabriel with scenes of the ministry of angels. There are other windows to the north such as the Apostles’ Window, to the East which is dedicated to several saints who worked in the Church of England and the South Choir aisle which has the window of Crucifixion. 


The pillars in the Cathedral of Saints are also for commemoration of a special gift. The Burhans Pillar is dedicated to Benjamin Burhans who was a faithful of the church and is credited with the building of the church in the 18th century.  The Saint Agnes Pillar recognizes the achievements of the daughters of the Saint Agnes School and their contribution to the church. The Chadwick pillar commemorates the William Chadwick and his wife who were strong members of the church in Cohoes. The Pumpelly pillar commemorates Harmon Pumpelly who served in various positions in the church. The Corning Pillar is in memory of Erastus Corning who laid the ground stone for the All Saints Cathedral of Albany. 

The nave and Transepts

Within the nave and transepts are also carvings of memorials. Just under the Gansevoort window that is located to the north of the nave is a carving from Saint Albans. At the bottom of the pillar to the entrance of the aisle is a stone that emanated from the Church of Dunfermline on which Queen Margret was buried.  There is also a huge door located in the North Transept which commemorates those who have helped to reduce the debt of the Cathedral. The carving was donated by Saint Agnes School. There is a large square bowl known as the Font which is supported by four pillars over three stones in the south transept. The stone is covered with waving lines which symbolizes water. The pulpit of the Cathedral of All Saints, Albany is in memory of James Craig. It is made of a large Carlisle Stone which is grouped together by carved pillars and has several inscriptions. The litany desk was done by Alfred Robinson and gives an idea of intercession and supplication. The church lectern is of a noble bird with a defiant pose and made of Riga Oak. It gives a depiction of an everlasting Gospel with the Satan under its foot. 

The Choir Aisle

The Choir aisle has three steps above the floor of the nave and is made of open wrought iron that has brass bands and a cross. The choir is also based on Carlisle sandstone gifted by a priest from another diocese. There is also a screen that is a dividing line between the nave and the choir and therefore demarcating between the Church militant and the peaceful portion. The choir arch is placed on memorial pillars and was gifted by Robert Gibson of New York. The Great Organ is in memory of the Church’s first president and was built by Austin Organ Company. The fronts of the Great Organ have gilded pipes which extend from the floor of the Choir and form a screen to opening of the arches. 


In conclusion, the architecture of Cathedral has characteristics of gothic building. This is depicted by its cavernous spaces and the expanse of the wall having overlying and inscriptions. The gigantic size of the building is also another characteristic that makes it gothic with hanging pillars and the presence of images within the various structures such as the windows and the naves. There are also arches which are vertical in height and bulky and that can support much weight with the pillars.  Lastly, there are vaulted ceilings with pointed arches that supports the weight of the upper section. 

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