The Singing Statues at St. John The Divine

In the south-western corner on the St John The Divine property is Synod Hall, a large indoor space available for functions (movies often rent it for catering and extras holding purposes when shooting in the area).

Synod 01

I noticed something on my last job there – the statues in the arch above the front doors can sing!

Synod 02

More specifically, they seem to have learned how to chirp. Somewhere, nestled in amongst the statues ornamenting the arch, are dozens and dozens of birds – and you will never see a single one.

Synod 03

I seriously have no idea where they hide. Yes, you might see nests, like the ones below, but you can stare and stare, and all you’ll see are statues chirping back at you. No wings flittering, no beaks pecking…If they weren’t chirping, you’d never know they were there.

Synod 04

While you’re staring up at the singing statues, you should take a moment to look more closely, as they’re not the typical ho-hum collection of saints and martyrs. Take, for example, this workman, complete with hard hat and measuring tape:

Synod 06

Nearby is this rain-coated sailor, who looks like he just stepped off a Gloucester fishing boat (note that he’s standing on a coiled rope):

Synod 07

A little lower is Hamlet, contemplating Yorick’s skull (that is one great skull!):

Synod 08

And here we have a scientist, peering through an ancient microscope:

Synod 09

The arch is filled with numerous sculptures representing all segments of society, and has some really imaginative work. Definitely worth a look next time you’re passing by 110th & Amsterdam. Though most people only bother to see the cathedral, the grounds of St. Johns have some pretty impressive sites, including three beautiful roaming peacocks and a garden consisting only of plants mentioned in the Bible.

Finally, for those who have never been inside Synod Hall, it is essentially the closest thing New York City has to the dining room at Hogwarts:

Synod 10


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  1. I was walking by the cathedral earlier this year and saw an albino peacock strolling by the fountain. I think they have a wonderful garden there, but don’t know if it is open to the public.

  2. I love your website! I don’t live in New York, unfortunately, but did once and wish I could again. Thank you for this.

  3. Thanks for pointing out another interesting tid bit around the area that I work.

  4. It’s garden is closed to the public but just off Amsterdam Ave before the garden is a wonderful sculpture of a figurative good-vs-evil struggle (it probably is or at one point was a fountain). Encircling the sculpture’s base are small figures of philosophers from around the world. Well worth the visit.

  5. For more Hogwartian dining facilities check out the dining room at the General Theological Seminary in Chelsea. It’s in the building now called the Tutu Center, over by 10th Avenue. I don’t know if it’s currently open to the public but I’ve seen it a couple of times during Open House New York.

  6. If only Synod Hall had all those floating candles like Hogwarts does. I was in there for a night function last year, and it so dark I could barely see!

  7. @Ben That’s the Peace Fountain, but I’ve never seen it with water.

    It’s pretty crazy. There’s a plaque that identifies all the elements of the sculpture; it’s pretty over the top. I took a friend there once, a British professor, and he stood reading the plaque then turned to me and said in his polished Oxbridge accent: “It seems to me that a work of art that requires that degree of exegesis isn’t entirely successful.” Oh, that made me laugh!

    Scout, there’ re great details in the statues at the cathedral entrance, too–the NYC skyline, DNA molecules, NYC traffic…

  8. Hey, i just came across your blog- it’s amazing! I’m visiting New York in November and I will surely check out some of “your” places.
    Greetings from Germany.

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