The Church Tony Soprano’s Grandfather Built

“See that church? Your great grandfather helped build that almost 80 years ago. He was a stonemason, the old man. Came over from Avellino with four dollars in his pocket.”

Tony Soprano

The camera pans down to show a beautiful church made of grey stone. Alongside it: a red Tahoe. A father wants to show his teenage son the family’s history.

I always loved this scene in season 4: the beautiful backdrop, the connection to the Italian immigrants that form my family and Tony’s, and AJ’s apathetic response to it all. So yesterday, I went in search of this venerable parish.

The church in season 4
How it looked yesterday

The church is in Newark in the series, but the real shooting location was St. Patrick’s Church in Jersey City, NJ. Completed in 1877, it was built largely by Irish, not Italian immigrants. But how it was built closely parallels Tony’s story:

Most families could contribute only pennies. But the men of the parish, most of them day laborers and unskilled workmen, contributed something perhaps more important, their raw labor, acquiring in the process a sweat equity in the great project and a commitment to its success beyond what religious fervor alone might have produced.

We see St. Patrick’s numerous times in the series: in the pilot, when Tony visits the church with Meadow, in seasons 3 and 4, and finally in season 6 when it is home to the Feast of St. Elzear. The zeppole stand, sausage vendors, and rides were lined up on Bramhall Avenue, alongside the church.

The beautiful garden in season 1
The church garden yesterday

Tony describes the neighborhood as “falling down to the ground,” and indeed I saw a number of condemned buildings. But nonetheless, I found myself wishing I could walk the Feast of St. Elzear with a bag of zeppoles in the shadow of this majestic church.

The Feast of St. Elzear, season 6
On the stairs, seen in season 3

Just don’t ride the teacup ride!

More on The Sopranos:

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