The Shrine of St. Frances X. Cabrini

The Shrine of St. Frances Cabrini houses the remains of Mother Cabrini, the patron saint of immigrants. This peaceful chapel overlooking the Hudson River is nestled in a quiet neighborhood in northern Manhattan. It is easily accessible by mass transit.

Mother Cabrini Bought This Land

Mother Cabrini purchased this property in 1899. She bought it to house a boarding school for upper-class girls, and used the tuition to fund orphanages and free schools for the poor. The buildings also acted as a receiving house for orphans. The U.S. novitiate for the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the order Mother Cabrini founded, was here for a while as well.

Mother Cabrini always found great tranquility when she visited this site. A bench upon which she liked to meditate remains for visitors to sit upon.

How Mother Cabrini’s Remains Arrived Here

Mother Cabrini died in Chicago in 1917 at the age of 67. Her body was transported by train to New York, and then entombed on the grounds of Sacred Heart Orphanage in West Park, New York. In 1930 Mother Cabrini High School opened at 701 Fort Washington Avenue, and in 1933 her remains were translated (moved) to rest in the chapel of the school. Her heart is preserved in Codogno, Italy.

Five years later, at the time of her beatification in 1938, Mother Cabrini’s remains were placed in a glass reliquary beneath the altar of the school.

St. Frances Cabrini was canonized on July 7, 1946. She was the first U.S. citizen to be proclaimed a saint. According to the New York Times, 45,000 people came to venerate her relics at the school on the day she was canonized.

Construction of St. Frances Cabrini Shrine

The flow of visitors was overwhelming, and eventually a separate building was built next door to Mother Cabrini High School. The Shrine was completed in 1959, and after the altar was consecrated Mother Cabrini’s remains were translated to where she now rests.

Is Mother Cabrini’s Body Incorrupt?

Yes and no. When Mother Cabrini’s remains were exhumed prior to her beatification, they were found to be subject to normal decay with one exception: her heart. This is particularly apt, since Mother Cabrini, like Catherine of Siena, experienced a mystical “exchange of hearts” with Jesus. St. Frances Cabrini’s heart remains intact in a reliquary in Codogno, Italy, where she founded the Missionary Sisters.

The glass reliquary in the altar at the Shrine contains about 80% of Mother Cabrini’s remains beneath her habit. The face and hands are made of wax, modeled on what she looked like at the end of her life. The mask helps us see Mother Cabrini as she looked when she was alive, even as we know she is alive in heaven.

The Mosaic and Stained Glass at St. Frances Cabrini Shrine

A pictorial mosaic depicting scenes from Mother Cabrini’s life surrounds the altar. It is composed of Carrera marble, Botticino marble, and gilded Venetian glass.

A towering three-story stained-glass image of Mother Cabrini at the back of the chapel overlooks the Hudson River. It features an unusual mid-century composition of pieced stained glass with painted details. A carriage Mother Cabrini drove when she visited West Park sits beneath the stained glass.

The Museum and Shop at the Shrine

The Shrine houses a small museum of second-class relics and memorabilia of Mother Cabrini. Rotating exhibits provide additional insight into her life and spirituality. A short video about the miracles leading up to Mother Cabrini’s canonization plays in English and Spanish.

Pilgrims to the Shrine may, upon request, be blessed with a first-class relic of the saint. Please call ahead to (212)923-3536 is you wish to bring a group or have a docent speak about Mother Cabrini’s life.


360º Views of the Cabrini Shrine

Videos by Andrew Tallon, PhD, Professor of Art, Vassar College