Trinity Church Rejuvenation

A Close Look at the Rejuvenated Reredos

James Melchiorre with Photos by Colin Winterbottom

The rejuvenation of the nave of Trinity Church Wall Street, now in its 19th month, includes two of the church’s more memorable features, the High Altar and the wall behind it, called the reredos, which date back almost 150 years.

A creation of architect Frederick Clarke Withers, the reredos is 35 feet wide and about 20 feet high and spotlights many characters from the Bible and the history of Christianity, their dramatic appearance now embellished by the work of the rejuvenation project.

All of Jesus' Apostles, save Judas Iscariot, are represented. On the left is Jude, to the right Bartholomew, each pictured with weapons by which they are said to have been martyred.

A Trinity Vestryman, John J. Astor and his brother William Astor, financed the building of the reredos to honor their father William B. Astor, who died in 1875.

Apostles Thomas (left) and Matthew are paired together here, with Matthew, the one-time tax collector, holding a money box.

The third and current Trinity Church building, considered the masterpiece of architect Richard Upjohn, was scarcely 30 years old in the late 1870s and, to accommodate the new additions, the end of the church where the altar is located had to be extended to the west.

Angels representing the Church Triumphant and playing musical instruments sit atop the four buttresses of the reredos.

For such an elaborate structure, the altar and reredos went up fast. Construction work began on April 3, 1877, was completed in only 86 days, on June 27, with the Rt. Rev. Horatio Potter, Bishop of the Diocese of New York, leading the service of dedication on June 29.  

Christ in Glory centers the highest level of the reredos.

When Trinity Church reopens, the High Altar will be moved away from the reredos and, with customized altar cloths now being designed, will be used again in worship for the first time in about 50 years.