Parish History

1892 – 1897 – St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church and Chapel

Visible from the PATH terminal in Journal Square, St. John’s Church, begun in 1892 and completed in 1897, is a massive granite structure, built in the Romanesque style, whose somber exterior belies its lavish and glittering interior. Its interior is reminiscent of Byzantine architecture. If you believe that the tower is two-toned, you are correct. The original tower, 75 feet high with a flat top, was increased to 150 feet in 1925.

Mosaic History

The mosaics cover 5,488 square feet . The eye in one figure has 16 “tesserae,” or pieces of mosaic. Fusing pure gold leaf between two pieces of glass makes the gold tesserae. Only four churches in the United States, including the National Shrine of the immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, and the Cathedral of St. Louis surpass St. John’s in its quantity of mosaics but, arguably, not in its quality. The mosaics were executed in Venice under the direction of Victor Zucchi of the Payne Studios. While the mosaics give the church a Byzantine feeling, the subjects are copied from Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces.

Mosaic Church Sanctuary – Transition to Full Service

The semicircular apse is covered with mosaics from floor to dome. Above the main sanctuary is a reproduction of Raphael’s “La Disputa del Sacramento,” depicting a discussion of theologians on the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The original mural painted by Raphael in the Vatican is painted on a flat wall. Zucchi had the difficult problem not only of copying, but also of readjusting the perspective of the composition so that the curve of the wall would not give a distorted appearance. Above the theologians are the Trinity, the Blessed Virgin, and St. John the Baptist. Among the theologians are the Doctors of the Latin Church: Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great.