Monday, January 6, 2014

Photo Essay: Brooklyn's Haunted German Cathedral - Clock Tower, Crypt & Rathskeller

I didn't know that the Most Holy Trinity Church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn was supposedly haunted when I first booked the tour to go.

But, of course it is. Anytime you've got people buried in the basement - especially one who'd been moved from their original burial ground - there's bound to be some unrest.

Besides, the Roman Catholic tradition is full of tales of spirits and (holy) ghosts and saintly apparitions and roaming souls. They just don't consider those "hauntings," per se.

We toured the church not in search of ghosts, but to explore the seldom-visited nooks and crannies of the Gothic structure - which is architecturally spooky by intention, bearing more than just sense of mystery.



We headed upstairs, past the triforium (which gives a good view of the Great Rose Window, as well as of ornamental pipes of a pipe organ that was sold off decades ago)...



...up narrow and winding staircases...



...careful not to hit our heads on low-hanging beams...



...behind stained glass windows normally visible only from the outside...



...into the former clock tower room...



...though neither tower holds clocks any longer.



There are five bells in the left of the twin towers (covered and reinforced since 1990 to address their crumbling)...



...but we only made it as high as the narrow ledge under the window, below the roof and between the two spires.



The church's massive structure still dominates the skyline of this part of Brooklyn, towering over the (no longer German) neighborhood below.



Unfortunately, visiting the bells was deemed "too dangerous" (whose perils I can't even imagine, considering the tiptoe trek we'd already taken up there)...



...so we went back downstairs, past a darkened chapel behind the sacristy...



...down into the basement...



...which is currently being used as a food pantry for the Trinity Human Service Center, one of the ways that the church gives back to its neighboring community.



Also in the basement, under the rectory, is another hidden delight:



...a bonafide rathskeller, a uniquely German bar or restaurant (here it's more of a lounge) in the basement of a public building like a city hall, or, in this case, a church.



The revelry in the rathskeller (or, in modern times, "ratskeller") is somewhat diminished, however, by the nearby crypt...



...where the bodies of Father John Stephen Raffeiner (1785-1861) and Monsignor Michael May (1826-1895) are entombed...



...under watchful eyes.



There are actually six vaults in the crypt, though four remain vacant after city laws changed the legality of where the dead may be interred.



The crypt - located just under the vestibule at the church's main entry - lies protected behind a locked gate.

After all, Father Raffeiner was already moved once, over  thirty years after his death, from his original burial ground in the parish cemetery, to join Father May in his place of rest.

So it would stand to reason that one might experience a bit of unrest in this place.

Related Post:
Photo Essay: Brooklyn's Most Holy Trinity Church, Sanctuary & Triforium, Haunted