Brooklyn is often called the City of Churches, thanks to its many majestic and historic houses of worship. Bensonhurst in particular, with its rich history and diverse immigrant communities, boasts numerous vibrant congregations that hold services in some of the most breathtaking parishes in the borough.
Whether you are looking for Easter services, or just love history and beautiful architecture, the churches in our neighborhood offer much to admire. While this is hardly a comprehensive list, we’ve selected a few of our favorites that stand out based on historical significance and architectural uniqueness. As always, feel free to share your favorite places of worship in the comments!
The Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe was founded in 1906. The charming church grew quickly out of the simple wooden building on the corner of 15th Avenue and 72nd street. Over the years, two fires destroyed the building — in 1933 and 1973 — but in both instances, the congregation pulled together to rebuilt the parish even more ornately and beautifully than before.
Here’s a photo of the church’s sanctuary today:
Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church
7201 15th Avenue
Our Lady Of Grace‘s history can be traced back to a rented storefront on Avenue X, where Rev. James Byrnes celebrated the first Mass in 1935. It’s distinctive church bell is popularly called “Salvatore” for the congregations first pastor:
“Six months later, June 28, 1935, Rev. Salvatore Cafiero was appointed the first pastor with the authority to build a church. On July 2, 1935, Father Cafiero received permission from Bishop Thomas E. Molloy to dedicate the parish to Our Lady of Grace.
“March 8th, 1936 marks the beginning of an important year. Ground is broken and construction on the main church begins.”
430 Avenue W
Saint Philip’s Episcopal Church has been serving Dyker Heights community since 1900. From its website:
“At a meeting in mid-summer of 1899 in a little school house on the corner of 84th Street and 11th Avenue, it was decided to establish a Parish of the Episcopal Church in the growing community of Dyker Heights. Within months, a building was erected and ready so that on Palm Sunday, 1900, the first service was held. Our present building is the original structure. The Steeple was added in 1907. In this garden like setting, St. Philips became known as ‘The Little Country Church on the Hill.'”
1072 80th Street
When we think of the dramatic, stylized churches of New York, most of us flash to the many grand, towering spires in Manhattan. However, right here at home in Bath Beach, St. Finbar’s parish is soon to turn 135 and the modern church stands as regal and elegant today as it did when it was first erected in 1912.
A bit of history: “The early permanent settlers in the area were Irish. To attend Sunday Mass they had to travel to other communities. As the population, jobs and industries began to grow, the demand for services began to grow and the idea was born for a parish church in Bath Beach. The idea was given birth to by William Swayne. Mr. Swayne offered a piece of his property to Bishop Loughlin as the site and location for a new Catholic Church to be built. Mr. Swayne also told Bishop Loughlin that County Cork in Ireland was his hometown, and since the first Bishop of Cork was Saint Finbarr, he would respectfully ask that the Bishop confer the name of “St. Finbarr” upon the newly built church. In September l880, Bishop Loughlin blessed and dedicated the first St. Finbarr, a small one-room church that faced Railroad Avenue (now Bath Avenue). ”
138 Bay 20th Street
(718) 236-3312, ext 201
Widely considered the “Mother Church of Italian immigrants” of the diocese, this magnificent church’s 150-foot bell tower casts a protective shadow over Dyker Heights.
In 1948, the congregation of St. Rosalia parish took a vow to build a votive shrine dedicated to the safe return of the soldiers from the battlefields of World War II. Generous parishioners, a saintly monsignor, and a pious mobster all played roles in its construction. Today it is one of the most spectacular houses of worship in New York City, and two diamond crusted crowns attached to it have been been personally blessed by Pope Pius XII. Read more about the history of Regina-Pacis here.
1230 65th Street
Why you should visit: “While our parish of Saint Bernadette has stood on 13th Avenue in Dyker Heights for many years, we have humble beginnings. Our parish was built while the neighborhood was still considered “mission land”, in the times of the horse and buggy. Until the parish construction was complete, the Mass was offered through the Knights of Columbus on 86th Street and later in a storefront on 13th Avenue, across from the current Church building. ”
8201 13th Avenue
Saints Simon & Jude Parish
Saint Simon and Jude Church was founded in 1897 to serve Irish and Italian working- and middle-class parishioners. It’s parish school across the street boasts intricate stain glass and marble detailing. Over the years, both the neighborhood and the parish have become increasingly multi-ethnic and multi-racial, welcoming new immigrants from Russia, Ukraine, China, and Spanish speaking countries.
185 Van Sicklen Street
Pastor/RectorRev. Fred Marano
Over the last century, this charming stone structure at 14 Gravesend Neck Road — located at the former site of the short-lived Gravesend Methodist Episcopal Church — has housed Italian Pentecostal services, and today, the First Korean Church of Brooklyn, a Presbyterian congregation. Joseph Ditta has a nice piece on the history of the church in Gravesend Gazette.
14 Gravesend Neck Road
The crown jewel of Bensonhurst, this landmarked country church is made from the same stones as the original New Utrecht Reformed Church, which once stood beside Old New Utrecht Cemetery on 84th Street and 16th Avenue, where many of Brooklyn’s original Dutch settlers are still buried.
Legend has it that in the 1650, the Dutch villagers of New Utrecht decided they needed a church to have services in. The congregation was established in 1677, and the building completed in 1700. The structure served as a field headquarters and hospital for the British during their occupation of Brooklyn and was moved to its current location on 84th Street and 18th Avenue in 1822.
1827 84th Street
Though technically this palatial church sits on the Sunset Park side of the Dyker Heights border, the diversity of its congregants, and its rich architectural detail are very much in line with Bensonhurst/Dyker Heights parishes.
In 1892, a pastor of the Redemptorist Saint Alphonsus Church, Friar Wayrieh, was given permission to establish a mission church in Brooklyn. The church was to be established and a new parish was to be formed. On November 1 of the same year, the Redemptorists purchased a city block between 59th Street and 60th Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue for $40,000.
The work was completed in several stages. First there was a wooden church that supported 500 people and cost $10,000, which was completed in 1894. Then, in 1905, the wood church was destroyed and all the services were moved into a nearby school. The construction of the current church structure began in 1907. The members of the parish were very generous with their money and their time and the church was completed after a final push in 1909. Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the lower part of today’s church, opened on Easter Sunday, 1909, welcoming more than 6,000 worshipers.
526 59th Street
[Additional reporting by Benjamin Cohn]