World Trade Center’s St. Nicholas National Shrine will be lit for the first time this week

September 8, 2021

Rendering courtesy of Friends of St. Nicholas

On September 11, 2001, a Greek Orthodox church on Cedar Street was destroyed, resulting in plans to rebuild the structure at a new location on Liberty Street. Construction finally began on this new Santiago Calatrava-designed church, St. Nicholas National Shrine, in 2015, and though there were some hurdles along the way, the domed building will finally be lit for the first time. The church will commence the 20th-anniversary remembrance of 9/11 with a memorial service and the inaugural lighting of the Saint Nicholas National Shrine this Friday evening.

The original St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was located at 155 Cedar Street, in a building that had been constructed in 1832 as a tavern and was purchased by its congregants and converted to a church in 1922. It was the only house of worship to be fully destroyed during the September 11th attacks. The site is now home to a high-security underground garage.

The new church is at 130 Liberty Street, at the tip of Liberty Park, a one-acre elevated public park that opened to the public in 2016. It overlooks the 9/11 Memorial Pools and museum. The church was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who’s also responsible for the World Trade Center Oculus.

The 2013 estimate for the project was $20 million. It broke ground the following year, but after its 50-foot dome topped out in late 2016, costs eventually ballooned to $78 million. Construction stopped in 2017 when the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America ran out of funding and failed to make payments. In late 2018, the Port Authority, who owns the piece of land on Liberty Street where the new church is being constructed, offered support in getting the project back off the ground. And in early 2020, Governor Cuomo announced that a new nonprofit, the Friends of St. Nicholas, would work in conjunction with the Port Authority to resume construction. And work did commence in August of 2020.

A press release from the governor’s office at the time said: “When completed, the new St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine… will serve as a place of prayer and silent reflection and also house a nondenominational bereavement center for anyone seeking solace and strength at a time of loss.”

Photos from August 2020, courtesy of Governor Andrew Cuomo/Flickr

Calatrava designed the new church to resemble the Byzantine churches of Hagia Sophia and the Church of the Holy Savior in Istanbul. It’s constructed of white Vermont marble, which was inspired by a mosaic of the Madonna and Child Enthroned at the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. In addition to a six-foot-three-inch Justinian cross atop its dome, the structure is unique for the fact that it will glow at night as a symbol of hope at the World Trade Center site.

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, along with The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Friends of Saint Nicholas, will lead this Friday’s memorial service. In August of last year, the archbishop said, “We are going to open the Saint Nicholas Church and National Shrine as a sign of love, not hate; a sign of reconciliation, not of prejudice; and a sign of the ideals that exist in this great American Nation, where one’s religious liberty and freedom of conscience never excludes, but only embraces.”

The service, which will officially commence the 20th Anniversary remembrance of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, marks the first time the Church and National Shrine have participated in the annual commemorations. It will also be the inaugural lighting.

The service is taking place this Friday, September 10 at 7:45pm. It will be live streamed here >>


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