Dedicated in 1965, The Church of the Holy Family was designed by architect George J. Sole to reflect the contemporary, post-Vatican II Church: devotional in feeling, adapted to the requirements of the restored liturgy, and harmonious with the monumental constructions that characterize the buildings in its United Nations neighborhood.
The art and design of the church reflect a spirit of ecumenism and multi-nationalism. As you enter, you are greeted by the loving, open arms of the Risen Christ above the altar. Like the figures on the two side altars, and the statue of the Virgin in St. Mary's Garden, the sculpture is a product of the studio of Nagni and was cast in Pietrasanta, Italy.
The altar is fashioned of Canadian black granite quarried near the Arctic Circle. The baptismal font along the west wall is carved from Brazilian black granite. In the baptistry is a bronze statue of Saint John the Baptist by American artist Frederick Shrady.
A chalice of gold, ivory, and stone was given to the church by Pope Paul VI, and is housed near the altar of Saint Joseph. The altar itself is a gift of the Italian government and bears the inscription: “In memory of the Italians Who Gave Their Lives in the Congo for the Ideals of Peace of the United Nations.”
On the left side of the main altar, the altar of reservation is set against the background of a large cast aluminum Byzantine icon of Our Lady of Peace. Its Eastern Church style and subject matter reflect the themes of universality and peace expressed in other art in the church. The dome over the Tabernacle is a replica of the dome that covers the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth - the birthplace of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
The three ceramic tableaux on the west wall depict the Holy Family in flight to Egypt, during a time when they were refugees. The stained glass windows on the same wall show the various national and racial groups who were refugees as a result of World War II, and repeat the word “hope” in all the refugees' languages, as well as in Latin. The windows and ceramics, and the Stations of the Cross on the east wall, are the work of Jordi Bonet, a Catalan based in Montréal.
The original vestments used at Holy Family were designed by graphic designer Peter M. Siepmann and hand loomed in Waltrop, Westphalia, Germany, by Nini Kaufhold.