Gate of Heaven Church Building History
“Our Gate of Heaven Church is a sacred place, a place where we are sure that God makes Himself present to us. We need sacred places, structures that sweep the soul to God. They bear witness to the belief that though we have never seen it except in dreams, our true home lies in heaven.”
Rev. A. Paul White
Work of erecting the original church (formerly parish hall) assumed a definite form under the direction of Fr. Patrick Lyndon, pastor of Sts. Peter & Paul Church. It was the mission Church of Sts. Peter & Paul.
Church was dedicated by Bishop McFarland of Hartford, CT. It was a plain brick building and accommodated 1500 persons. Master of Ceremonies was Rev. James Healey (later Bishop of Portland, ME).
Parish had the First Holy Name Society in the United States.
10,000 persons were in the congregation. St. Michael’s Hall (present site of parish school) was used to celebrate Mass for the overflow of congregants.
Church badly damaged by fire.
Archbishop John Williams laid the cornerstone for present Church building.
Building was designed by P. W. Ford, a Boston architect. It is constructed after the thirteenth century type of French Gothic architecture, of buff Roman brick, with brownstone trimming. It has a frontage of 106 feet and a depth of 184 feet.
The Church is named for the Blessed Mother, however, the main altar has the statues of Sts. Peter and Paul because the Church was originally a mission parish of Sts. Peter and Paul (located on West Broadway, sold by the Archdiocese mid 1990s, now condos).
Legend: Original statues went down on the Titanic.
Basement Church completed and opened for worship.
Parish divided, and St. Eulalia, now known as St. Brigid, was established.
Upper Church opened for worship and dedicated by Cardinal William O’Connell. Its great height and rounded apse create a distinct character. The total effect is soaring, lifting the human spirit in the House of God, our Gate of Heaven.
Parish free of debt.
Church and other parish buildings underwent major renovations under the pastorate of Rev. John Powers. Many men of the Holy Name Society were involved in this work.
Church building underwent a $6 million renovation/restoration. restoration of the original colors to the walls, cleaning of the stone inside, re-pointing of bricks, placement of new bricks, new copper drainpipes and downspouts, new plumbing, a new handicapped ramp, entrance, elevator, and doors, and the installation of new radiators to heat the Church during the winter months.
The lower Church's original altar was restored and a new chapel, St Joseph's Chapel was established. Benches were used from Milton parish St Agatha. The other half of the basement was converted into a parish hall for gatherings and functions.
The stained glass windows were designed by N. H. J. Westlake, Esq., of London, whose work, “The History of Design in Painted Glass,” is recognized as an authority on the subject.
The central theme of the windows is the Blessed Mother of God, Gate of Heaven, Titular Patroness of the Parish.
Central Panel depicts the genealogy of Christ through His Mother.
St. Paul preaching to the Jews of Cyprus
David with the symbolic harp
Solomon with his Temple
Mary with Jesus
Jesus on the Cross
Jesus, Son of God, reigning in Heaven
Side Panels represent the five Joyful mysteries of the Rosary together with the adoration of the Magi.
Left Panel from the bottom:
Right Panel from the bottom:
Adoration of the Magi
Presentation in the Temple
Finding in the Temple
East Transept Window
The central theme is the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin as Queen of Heaven (center top); in the right panel, God the Father blesses His Holy Spouse; in the left panel, God the Son looks at His Mother
Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and Mary
Moses the Law Giver
Solomon the Wise Man of the Old Testament
Assuerus, King of Persia, whose wife, Esther was a Jewish maiden, crowned Queen of Persia and prefigured Mary
West Transept Window
The general theme is the Assumption of Mary (center top)
Empty tomb of Mary covered with roses
Three great prophets: Jeremias, David and Isaias
Side Windows These windows represent on the Epistle side, five women saints of the early Roman Church; on the Gospel side are five saints of the early Irish Church. At the bottom of each window we see a picture recalling an incident in the life of the saint.
St. Jarlath, 6th century, first Bishop of Tuam, founded a great monastery
St Brendan, builder of religious institutions
St Columba (Columbkille), 6th century, erected many monasteries (Killes)
St. Brigid, styled the Mary of Ireland, one of the first converts of St. Patric Established convent in Kildare, which became center of religious life in Ireland St Patrick, Ireland’s patron
St. Eulalia, born in Spain, persecuted for her faith and tortured to death
St. Cecilia, Roman, patroness of sacred music, suffered martyrdom for her faith
St. Agnes, Roman maiden, martyr
St. Lucy, Christian maiden, martyr, great devotion to St. Agatha
St. Agatha, virgin, comforted by apparition of St. Peter prior to martyrdom
Seven windows most of which refer to Our Lord’s passion and death together with particular events in the history of the infant church. In the lower part of these chancel windows are prophets bearing scrolls upon which are scriptural texts appropriate to the subject of the window. In the traceries above are shields bearing emblems of the Passion.
Beginning at the Gospel side:
Jesus carrying cross; St. Peter and St. Andrew are above
Return of Blessed Lady and St. John from Calvary; St. James the Greater and St. John are above
Entombment of Our Blessed Lord and St. John giving Communion to Our Blessed Lady; St Thomas and St. James the Lesser are above
Ascension of Our Lord; St. Philip and St. Bartholomew are above
St. Peter preaching on Pentecost; St. Matthias and St Jude are above
St. Stephen, stoned to death; St. Simon and St. Matthew are above
Conversion of St. Paul; St. Barnabas is above
The United States Customs Department gave assurance that the windows would be admitted duty free, which, in the beginning, they were. Some months later, the Treasury Department reversed the judgment, and declared that all the windows were subject to duty to include those that were installed. The matter was taken to Congress, and through special legislation, the importation of all the windows were duty free. This saved the Parish approximately $15,000. References to the duty free import were a prominent feature in the debate of Congress when the Tariff Act of 1913 was under consideration. As a result, Congress decided to give all churches the privilege that had been granted to the Gate of Heaven Parish.
The instrument at Gate of Heaven was custom made by the Estey Organ Co. of Brattleboro, VT. Many of the instruments Estey manufactured were stock model organs, however, the organ at Gate of Heaven was made specifically for the church. It contains 47 ranks, 46 stops and 2,675 pipes.
In 1958, William F. Patchell, organ builder, of Malden, MA, rebuilt the instrument, replacing the tubular-pneumatic action with electro-pneumatic primaries, and also replaced the original console with its current 3 manual Kimball stoptab console. Patchell also made other changes for ease of service.
In 1962, more changes were made, this time by Morel Organ Co. of Reading, MA. Changes were purely tonal. Most of the pipework remains as it was installed in 1909, while approximately 9 ranks were replaced, re-pitched or moved to a different location.
As of 2009, the organ is in disrepair. The repair costs are estimated to be over $100,000 because of the custom made nature of the organ. The church choir now performs on the left side of the altar.
This history compiled by Rev. A. Paul White, son and vicar of Gate of Heaven for over 40 years.