The church, designed by the great church architect William Schickel (1850-1907), is modeled after the “French Gothic of the 13th century” style popular in the United States during the mid-to-late nineteenth century. It also has many architectural features typical in German Gothic-styled churches of the time.
William Schickel (1850-1907). Photo courtesy of the Schickel Family archives.
The corner-stone of the Church, which reads “AD1882,” was laid on May 18, 1882; it took three years to construct the building; when it was completed in August of 1885 it was one of the largest church structures in both the City of Brooklyn and the City of New York (Brooklyn was a separate city until it merged with the five boroughs of greater New York in 1898).
The building’s impressive twin spires, that reach twenty stories into the sky, have dominated the neighborhood for nearly one-hundred and twenty years. The front of the building and the towers are constructed of Belleville brownstone (i.e., stone acquired from a quarry in the not too distant town of Belleville, New Jersey; interesting to note is that stone from the same quarry was used to build the famous Gothic Revival style gates of theGreen-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn). Trinity’s towers are 205 feet tall; the left tower (on the east side) was completed in 1884; the right tower was completed in 1890; for six years the one on the right stood only as high as the roof of the main part of the structure. The crosses on the top of each tower are five feet tall. There are five bells in the left tower; they were installed in 1891 (there are no bells in the right tower); all of the bells together weigh approximately 10,074 pounds. When built, the towers featured clocks-not an uncommon fixture on bell towers of the time.
The building’s impressive twin spires, that reach twenty stories into the sky, have dominated the neighborhood for nearly one-hundred and twenty years. They were reinforced and covered with lead and copper in 1990, dramatically altering the way they had looked for more than one-hundred years. This photo was taken with a telephoto lens by Fr. Timothy Dore, OFM Conv., from atop the Empire State Building in Manhattan (“as the crow flies” the distance between the two buildings is approximately three and a half miles).
The outlay of the building’s interior is done in a “basilican” plan; there are no transepts. The interior is 170 feet long, 82 feet wide and 79 feet high. It has clustered columns, pointed arches and cruciform vaulting with supporting ribs in the ceiling. When the church was opened in 1885, it had a seating capacity of nearly 1,350 people; many rows of pews were removed from the church during subsequent renovations; today the church can accommodate 950 people at full capacity. There are two side aisles, designed like the nave, that feature corresponding side altars, one dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the other to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Notable along the walls on each side of the church are large carved Stations of the Cross. It should also be noted that several murals in the church were painted by the renowned German artist Wilhelm Lamprecht (1838-1922). Within the chancel is the old high altar, which is carved of white marble and Caen stone and is capped with a central spire that rises twenty-seven feet into the air. The modern altar of sacrifice, also made of marble, was dedicated in the year 2001; a baptismal font, which was designed to accommodate adult immersion baptisms, incorporates the church’s original baptismal font and was installed in the same year as the new altar. A beautifully sculpted oak pulpit, designed by the building’s architect, dominates the sanctuary area; the floor of its pedestal is eight feet above the main floor, while the fleur-de-lisornament at the peak of the ornate tower crowning it reaches a height of thirty-three feet.
Perhaps the building’s most magnificent feature is its exquisite stained glass windows; there are thirty-four windows in all; two of them have simple designs of vines and leaves, the others are breathtakingly beautiful. The central or rose window above the entrance to the church is thirty-six feet high and twenty-two feet wide. All of the windows were created by the Albert Neuhauser Mosaic Firm in Innsbruck, Austria in 1884 and 1885.
Above the arcade level (the main floor) there is a “triforium level” with tri-fold arched openings that lend to a sense of mystery typical in Gothic style churches. The building features a spacious clerestory level on which are found nineteen of the stained glass windows.
There is a large narthex (vestibule) at the main entrance to the building; two smaller vestibules, each featuring stairways to the choir loft, are located to the right and left sides of the narthex. Immediately below the narthex is a crypt area in which the first two pastors of the parish are entombed.
Behind the high altar is a large sacristy featuring richly paneled walls and cabinetry, as well as interesting stained glass windows, added during the renovation of 1958.