Ash Wednesday crowds enter and exit St. Peter’s Church, on Church and Barclay Streets. The church represents the oldest Catholic parish in New York State and is one of the oldest Catholic church buildings in the city. It is a Greek Revival temple-like structure completed in 1840, replacing an earlier church built in 1786. The church’s construction was aided by the donation of 1000 pieces of silver by King Philip III of Spain. St. Elizabeth Seton converted to Catholicism here, and the body of Father Mychal Judge was laid before the altar of the church after the FDNY chaplain was killed during the attacks on 9/11/01.
Ash Wednesday falls 46 days before Easter. Churches dispense ashes produced from the palms of the previous year’s Palm Sunday on the foreheads of the faithful in the shape of a cross to demonstrate penitence at the beginning of Lent.