Dominating the corner of Manhattan’s 53rd Street and 5th Avenue for more than one hundred years, St. Thomas Church is an awe-inspiring sight. Its imposing High French Gothic styling, massive stained glass windows and more than sixty intricate reredos (decorative altar pieces) beckon to parishioners, passersby and tourists alike. When an electrical fire prompted a review and upgrade of the lighting and lighting control systems in this historic structure, St. Thomas Church knew exactly who to call. For nearly two decades, architectural lighting design firm Renfro Design Group (RDG) has partnered on projects with St. Thomas Church. RDG was recently invited back to relight the massive church, and veteran lighting designer Sarah Randall was tapped to lead the delicate project.
1. Highlight altarpiece details
2. Provide preset lighting scenes to complement the church’s wide variety of events, including a magical holiday service
3. Simplify maintenance and improve the energy efficiency of the lighting system
4. Improve light quality to create the mood of a sacred space for parishioners
5. Preserve and honor the space’s historical, spiritual, and introspective ambience
At the project’s end, the RDG team had unified seventy-four decorative fixtures with over one hundred concealed luminaires. Concealed lighting at a dimmed intensity level preserves the architecture’s Gothic ambiance, while church staff love the lighting system’s ability to flexibly accommodate such a wide variety of musical performances and services. Under normal conditions, this historic church invites members – including their world-renowned men and boys choir – and the general public through its doors 24/7, offering a spiritual, uplifting respite to all who need it. The updated lighting and timeless architecture combine to give each moment - from weddings to weekly services to casual visits – the reverence it deserves.
St. Thomas Church, part of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, is located at the intersection of Fifth and Fifty-third in Manhattan. They have begun phased re-opening and do welcome visitors; for more details, visit their website. If you can’t make it to Manhattan, you are welcome to explore this heavenly space by taking a virtual tour.