Site for Greek church near WTC gets blessing

October 18, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — Hundreds of members of New York’s Greek Orthodox community attended a blessing ceremony on Saturday for a church that will replace a house of worship that was destroyed in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The tiny St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was crushed when the twin towers collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, making it the only church that was destroyed in the attacks. On Saturday, church and government officials gathered for a blessing of a site where a new church will finally rise.

Church officials say the new $38 million domed structure designed by famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava also will serve as a national non-denominational shrine for ground zero visitors.

“It will be a place of faith, a place of peace and a place of solace and hope,” Archbishop Demetrios, leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, said in a statement.

The church was founded by Greek immigrants in 1916 and began services at its 1,200-square-foot location on Cedar Street in 1922. After it was destroyed, the rebuilding was delayed by a legal dispute between the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America over the original site.

In 2011, the parties struck a deal in which the church agreed to exchange its land on Cedar Street for the rights to another parcel on Liberty Street near the National Sept. 11 Memorial Museum. Church officials say construction is being funded by donations from around the world, including $260,000 from the Greek government.

Calatrava also conceived the Port Authority’s $4 billion World Trade Center transportation hub. The church chose him for the project after he submitted a plan that drew inspiration from two Byzantine shrines in Istanbul — Hagia Sophia and the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora.

“The design for the church must respect the traditions and liturgy of the Greek Orthodox Church, but at the same time must reflect the fact that we are living in the 21st Century,” Demetrios said.