Greek Orthodox church at World Trade Center reopens at last

Dec 6, 2022, 1:14 AM | Updated: Dec 7, 2022, 9:01 am
One World Trade, left, is seen next to St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in New York, Tuesday, Dec...

One World Trade, left, is seen next to St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in New York, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. After a rebuilding process that lasted more than two decades, the Greek Orthodox church that was destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks has reopened at the World Trade Center site. The St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine, designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, now overlooks the Trade Center memorial pools from an elevated park. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NEW YORK (AP) — More than two decades after a tiny Greek Orthodox church in lower Manhattan was destroyed by the falling south tower of the World Trade Center, that church’s far grander replacement opened to the public this week in an elevated park overlooking the rebuilt trade center’s memorial plaza.

The new St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine hosted its first liturgy service on Tuesday to mark the Feast of St. Nicholas and is preparing to welcome visitors of all faiths who want to remember the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“Today is a joyous day for America and for New York,” said Michael Psaros, chair of Friends of St. Nicholas, the group tasked with raising funds for the church. “We invite all of America to please come visit, to come to the cenotaph that was created and built in memory of 3,000 people who were martyred and murdered on Sept. 11.”

Completion of the project, one of the last pieces of the newly built World Trade Center complex, once seemed in doubt.

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the World Trade Center, battled in court over where the new church would be built before agreeing to Liberty Park just south of the main trade center site.

A ceremonial groundbreaking was held in 2014, but construction came to a halt in 2017 when the archdiocese fell behind on payments.

Work resumed in 2020 with the goal of opening St. Nicholas in time for the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2021. That goal was not quite met, though the church was ceremonially lighted to mark the anniversary last year.

But on Tuesday, icons depicting heroes of Sept. 11 as well as Christ and the saints watched over a service conducted largely in New Testament Greek.

“This is the resurrection of St. Nicholas Church,” said Olga Pavlakos, the vice president of the parish council and a third-generation member of the St. Nicholas community.

Another worshipper from a family that attended the old St. Nicholas, Maria Yatrakis, said she had tears in her eyes when she went inside the new church. “To see it back up like this, to see it so close to the Statue of Liberty, which represents all the immigrants who helped make this church, is very moving to all of us,” Yatrakis said.

The church where Greek immigrants gathered a century ago was a converted tavern that was eventually dwarfed by the office buildings that grew around it. The new church was designed by Spanish-born architect Santiago Calatrava in the style of historic Byzantine structures including the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, with a central dome flanked by towers.

The church is covered in marble from the same Pentelic vein in Greece where the Parthenon’s stones were quarried, and at night its dome, through the translucent marble panels, shines like a beacon.

The iconography inside was painted by a monk from Xenophontos Monastery in Mount Athos, Greece, known as Father Loukas. The Rev. Alexander Karloutsos, the former vicar general of the archdiocese and a key player in the rebuilding of the church from the beginning, said Father Loukas was asked not just to create traditional icons but “to show the reality of Sept. 11.”

In one panel depicting the day of the attacks, boats sail to rescue people fleeing the destruction as the twin towers burn. In another, Christ greets first responders including police officers and firefighters at the Resurrection.

“This is the first icon you will ever see in the Orthodox tradition that includes contemporary scenes for the Resurrection,” Karloutsos said. “We’ve never done that before in any Orthodox church in the world.”

St. Nicholas’ price tag after years of cost overruns is about $95 million, Karloutsos said.

Calatrava, who also designed the train hub known as the Oculus at the trade center, said he has visited St. Nicholas often as it neared completion, though he was not at Tuesday’s ceremony.

“I regret I couldn’t be there,” Calatrava said from his office in Zurich. “I think it became a very beautiful piece. I’m very proud.”

Calatrava said that when he has visited St. Nicholas with friends, “they tell me it’s a jewel. And I think it is a little bit like that. It is something small but very significant in this particular place of New York overlooking the memorial as a part of all the reconstruction of lower Manhattan.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - A sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif., Sept. 24, 201...
Associated Press

Google hopes ‘Bard’ will outsmart ChatGPT, Microsoft in AI

Google is girding for a battle of wits in the field of artificial intelligence with “Bard," a conversational service apparently aimed at countering the popularity of the ChatGPT tool backed by Microsoft.
16 hours ago
FILE - A Boeing 737 Max jet prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle, Se...
Associated Press

Boeing plans to cut about 2,000 finance and HR jobs in 2023

Boeing plans to make staffing cuts in the aerospace company's finance and human resources departments in 2023, with a loss of around 2,000 jobs
16 hours ago
(Jennifer Bakos via AP)...
Associated Press

1 missing, 2 rescued from crab boat off Washington coast

A crew member remains missing and two others were rescued from crab boat that sank near Willapa Bay in southwest Washington on Sunday evening, according to the Coast Guard.
16 hours ago
child marriages...
Associated Press

Proposed bill would pay incarcerated workers minimum wage

A Washington state lawmaker who has spent time in prison wants the state to pay incarcerated workers minimum wage for doing their jobs.
16 hours ago
Associated Press

Space Force vows ‘above and beyond’ cleanup of Maui spill

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) — The U.S. Space Force said a power surge during a lightning storm likely caused a mechanical issue that allowed about 700 gallons (2,750 liters) of diesel fuel to spill last week at the environmentally sensitive and culturally important summit of Haleakala mountain on Hawaii’s Maui Island, authorities said. Brig. Gen. Anthony […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

Associate of Russian oligarch accused of violating sanctions

NEW YORK (AP) — An associate of a Russian billionaire was charged in an indictment unsealed Tuesday with violating U.S. sanctions and money laundering. The indictment charged Vladimir Voronchenko, a Russian who is a permanent U.S. resident, with joining a scheme to make over $4 million in payments to maintain four U.S. properties belonging to […]
16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Greek Orthodox church at World Trade Center reopens at last