- Last Updated: 12:20 AM, May 18, 2012
- Posted: 12:16 AM, May 18, 2012
Neighbors of the Chelsea church that inspired Rufus Wainwright’s beautiful ballad “Candles” say the singer unfairly crucified the chapel as “crappy” on a DVD.
Historic St. Vincent de Paul, the only Catholic church in town where Mass is celebrated in French, is in a fierce fight to stay open and has even received the support of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
On a DVD with the “deluxe edition” of his album “Out of the Game,” Wainwright explains the genesis of “Candles” by saying: “I would periodically light candles [for my mother, Kate McGarrigle]. When she did pass, I got back to New York, and there’s a little church around the corner from my apartment, a very poor, rundown French Catholic Church on 23rd Street that looks beautiful on the outside but is really falling apart.”
Wainwright says he went to light a candle for his mom, only to be told “there were no candles . . . I was kind of pissed off.”
Later, in Paris, he went to Notre Dame and “there was this side of me that thought, ‘Maybe she was just waiting for a better venue instead of that crappy little church on 23rd Street.”
The “crappy” spot at 123 W. 23rd St. was where Edith Piaf was married in 1952, and it has been a hub of the French community for 170 years. But it’s fallen into disrepair and is slated to be shut by the Archdiocese of New York.
“We’ve just put in our fourth application to [the Landmarks Preservation Commission],” says Olga Statz, a lawyer leading the campaign to save the church.
One nearby resident said Wainwright “needs to apologize . . . and buy the church some candles. Parishioners are up in arms that their church, which has long served the poor, has been insulted by a neighbor.”
Wainwright told us, “It is a beautiful church, and I hope that it gets the restoration it deserves. But considering the Catholic Church’s views on gay rights, they won’t get much help decorating.”
A rep for the archdiocese couldn’t be reached.Follow @PageSix