Scouting a Crypt

Nothing beats days when you're asked to scout something as unusual as a crypt.

Though you'd expect location scouting would take you to every sort of place imaginable, movies shot in New York mostly tend to ask for the old standards: Upscale apartment. Dank alley. Corporate office space. Vacant storefront. So when I was asked to shoot the chapel crypt in the Church of the Intercession in Harlem (on the border of Washington Heights), I was thrilled.

Located at 155th & Broadway, this is the third church to occupy the space, designed by Bertram Goodhue and built between 1911-1914. Surrounding it is the Old Trinity Cemetery, covering a sprawling 4 square city blocks.

I met my guide at a large wooden door on the side of the church. We proceeded down a dark set of stairs into the crypt.

At first, we were in darkness. Then, he hit the light, illuminating an incredible space with enormous columns and beautiful vaulted ceilings.

panorama - click to see larger viewing options

A reverse view. It's actually much darker than my pictures make it out to be. Though there's some lighting, I had the lens wide open to take these pictures.

panorama - click to see larger viewing options

It's also very cool, despite the warm summer day just a few steps up. A wall of cremated remains:

The west wall (yes, thoughts of Indiana Jones were in my head):

A small altar:

The north side of the crypt - I believe the door takes you into additional burial space.

Church of the Intercession is an amazing shooting location, offering a ton of great options, including its own cloister:

The cloister garden, which feels as removed from New York as you can get:

A pan of the cloister, which I suppose could be made into a widescreen desktop if cloisters are your thing:

panorama - click to see larger viewing options

The gate to the cloister garden:

The church also has its share of interesting ornamentation. If you look at the north wall, for example...'ll find a series of imaginative stone carvings of various monsters above the windows:

An interesting crest - this person seems to have a sun for a head, wings, and a very puffy torso:

And if you've never been to the surrounding Old Trinity Cemetery, it's definitely worth a visit.

Not only will you find some amazing crypts and vaults to peer into (in addition to crumbling gravestones)...'re almost guaranteed to find some evidence of Santaria practice (check out a whole post about it here).

A local once told me he had once found half a cow offered in sacrifice in front of a grave. Eerie stuff.


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