The Center For Migration Studies has provided GVSHP with historic images in the past, and recently sent us several images of the interior artwork of Our Lady of Pompeii church. The church has stood on the northwest corner of Carmine and Bleecker Streets since 1928, but the congregation dates back to 1892, when Father Pietro Bandini, founder of the New York branch of what was then an international effort, the Saint Raphael Society for the Protection of Italian Immigrants, gave the name Our Lady of Pompeii to the chapel in his agency’s New York headquarters. In 1896, Father Bandini went on to another mission, and his successor, Father Francis Zaboglio, could not keep the immigrant-aid agency going financially. So he focused instead on turning the chapel into a church that would serve the needs of Italian immigrants in the area.
The history of Our Lady of Pompeii is tied to the Church of St. Benedict the Moor. Established in 1883 as the first northern church for black Roman Catholics, in 1892 St. Benedict the Moor moved into a beautiful Greek Revival church first built in 1836 for the Third Universalist Society at 210 Bleecker Street. The area was then a predominantly African-American neighborhood known as “Little Africa“.