When Henry Hudson sailed down Newark Bay in the early 1600s, many colonies started to form in what is now New Jersey. As new settlers continued to flock to the Garden State, their cultures and beliefs also came with them, resulting in some of the most beautiful churches and cathedrals in America today. It may come as a surprise that one of the most stunning examples of French Gothic architecture in the United States is the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in downtown Newark.

The Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart is the fifth largest cathedral in North America, with more than 45,000 square feet under roof. Construction took almost a half-century to complete, beginning from 1899 until 1954. When the construction began, more than 100,000 people gathered to watch the cornerstone laying ceremony. During the construction period, there were several design changes, ultimately leading to the French Gothic Revival look. The result is one of the most spectacular cathedrals anywhere in the country, including ornate twin towers and a pointed spire standing more than 323 feet high.

Since its completion, the New Jersey Historical Society named it a historic landmark in 1974, and it was designated a National Historic Site in December 1976. The large stained glass windows, silver and bronze chandeliers and gorgeous marble walls are just some of the church’s outstanding beauty.

During Pope John Paul II’s visit to the United States in 1995, he celebrated evening prayer at the cathedral. During this visit, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart was elevated to a basilica to become the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

Many visitors enjoy listening to the choir accompanied by the huge organ. The Cathedral Basilica holds concerts open to the public throughout the year and it has the largest pipe organ ever built by the Schantz Organ Co., which includes 154 stops playable from two consoles.

The cathedral is located at 89 Ridge St. in Newark, NJ. For more information, visit www.cathedralbasilica.org.