Thursday, November 24, 2016


What New York's State Capital Albany lacks in population (just under 100,000 people), it more than makes up for in history. It was settled by the Dutch, who built two fur trading posts--Fort Nassau and Fort Orange--at this site in 1614 and 1624, making it the oldest settlement in New York. The British took over the Dutch settlements in 1664 and renamed the colony Albany to honor the Duke of Albany, who would become King James II of England in 1685 (and be deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688). Albany was officially chartered in 1686 and is the oldest chartered city in the United States and one of the oldest surviving colonies of the original thirteen British colonies.

There are lots of signs related to Albany's historicity scattered around the state capitol area:

Don't you wish you could sit on the bench and chat with this friendly green fellow? Lewis A. Swyer was a a founding member of the New York State Council of the Arts and the owner of a construction company that built some of the region's landmarks. He died in 1988 at age 70:

It was too early for wildflowers, but I was still drawn to a fallow flowerbed marked by this tribute. Irving and Elaine Kirsch were philanthropists who supported everything from the arts to park beautification to senior services. They were known for being great dancers, and effervescent Elaine was called "The Queen of Albany." Irving died in 1999, and Elaine lived on for 14 more years, doing good deeds everywhere she went. I love this marker. Irving sounds like an adoring husband.

Speaking of flowers, I wish I had gotten a better photo of this somewhat bizarre tulip statue, certainly a nod to the Dutch ancestry of the citizenry:

No, it's not a Romanesque church (as we first thought it was)--it's Albany City Hall, built in 1883. The 202-foot-tall tower on the corner has one of the only municipal carillons in the country.

The apartment fronts look a lot like what we have seen in New York City. Seeing them in Albany made me realize how much they remind me of Amsterdam:

I have no idea what kind of trees these are, but they have a 60s-style haircut, don't you think?

Every capital needs a war memorial, and near the Albany capitol building is a small Vietnam War memorial:

I was intrigued by this plaque, especially the word "also." Were these late additions to the memorial? I looked up a few of the names, and a quick search revealed some background information for two of them. Marilyn Lourdes Allan was killed in 1967 while working for USAID in Vietnam. Hans Jorg Rudolph Lorenz and his mother had immigrated to Ontario, Canada, in 1957 when he was 13. He enlisted in the Marines against her wishes and was killed by a gasoline explosion in 1966. Each name, like all the names on all the war memorials we've seen, represent a flesh and blood person who has a story.

We love old churches and always try to get inside when we see one. Churches in downtown areas tend to be lovely, historical structures. Just like the names on war memorials, I think every church has a story too. The Gothic-style Episcopal Cathedral of All Saints a few blocks from the capitol is one such church.

Built in the 1880s, it was the first church in the United States built specifically as an Episcopal cathedral (as opposed to reassigning a parish church to be the bishop's church). It is sometimes called "Pioneer Cathedral" for that reason. The bishop at the time, the Right Reverend William Croswell Doane, wanted to recreate an English cathedral in America. I could picture this church sitting in an English village, couldn't you?

Ambitious plans for the church were never actually completed, and never will be because the State Department of Education used the rest of the block for one of its buildings. However, there are still plans to add spires to the building, although after over 130 years of talking about it, I wonder if it will ever happen.

Our initial approach was from the rear of the building, and it was clear that before any new building is done, there is some maintenance to do:

The front is a little plainer than the sides. Those planned spires would make a big difference.

The church is laid out in a modified Greek cross, having a length of 320 feet (left photo) with two short transepts spanning 130 feet (right photo):
An iron rood screen that separates the chancel from the nave is 40 feet tall and modeled after a screen in Ely Cathedral in England. It was crafted in 1888:

The vaulted ceiling looks like it is made of stone, but it's actually a kind of fireproof tile developed in 1900:

A spectacular stained glass window, complete with a rose window, filters the light shining onto the altar. This window, called "The Great East Window," was designed in 1886 and is one of the largest stained glass windows in the world

I especially liked the elegant Mary triptych in the Lady Chapel at the end of one of the chancels:

I liked this round stone carving of Mary and her holy baby even more:

All Saints is famous for its music programs:

The baptistry looks like it could be made of soft, sculpted clay rather than from carved stone. It is based on a 10th-century font in St. Alban's Cathedral in England and has been in use since 1888:

Stained glass windows show scenes from the life of Christ:

. . . as well as scenes from the lives of various saints:

Several stone pillars in All Saints are engraved with memorials. The one on the left below reads: "This pillar bears the honoured name of Edmund Gay, A.D. 1799--1875. The tribute of his daughter's love."  The one on the right reads: "To the glory of God and in loving memory of Harmon Pumpelly, a man of faith and integrity. For many years vestryman and warden of St. Peter's Church, Albany, who filled with fidelity eminent positions of public trust and in his eighty-ninth year entered into rest, September 28 A.D. 1882. This pillar is erected by his wife Maria Brinckerhoff."
What awesome tributes! I want my children or husband to dedicate a pillar somewhere to me! Hmmm...maybe in a chocolate shop somewhere? 

I enjoyed learning about the words on this bronze plaque. They come from a 1924 sermon entitled "America First" delivered in the Washington National Cathedral by Albany's Episcopal Bishop G. Ashton Oldham.
His message should not be confused with the "America First Movement," the group that advocated isolationism and opposed entry into World War II. To the contrary, Bishop Oldham wanted America to be the country that led the world in spirituality, character, assumption of duties, helpfulness ("bending over a sick and wounded world like a good Samaritan"), courage, love and understanding, and peacemaking. It's a thought-provoking message, especially in our current political climate. 

Finally, all good Episcopal churches have Stations of the Cross. The Stations at All Saints are the work of an anonymous nun and were dedicated in 200. They are painted on panel in the Russian style, and are fairly modern and quite unique, focusing on a very small piece of the scene or of Christ's body rather than a more traditional portrait-like depiction of the various stages of the crucifixion. Christ's face is never seen in any of the stations. Each station had a round painting set in the middle of a large red cross:


Providing only a hint of what is taking place requires the viewer to fill in the missing pieces, a great exercise in meditation and worship. I loved it.

And speaking of pieces, I'll end with these disembodied feet. Are they Jesus's feet washed by Mary, or are they an apostle's feet washed by Jesus at the Last Supper? Perhaps the ambiguity is intentional--we should both serve others and allow others to serve us. Giving AND receiving are both important to our progression.


  1. Very nice post. Put some flesh on the bones of the skeleton of Albany for me. You didn't note that we met the priest/rector/bishop of the church and also listened while a man played the organ.

  2. Another beautiful church. I'd love to know what kind of tree that is!