St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
|St. Nicholas National Shrine at the World Trade Center|
|Location||130 Liberty Street,
New York, NY
|Former name(s)||St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church|
|Length||56 ft (17 m)|
|Width||22 ft (6.7 m)|
|Height||35 ft (11 m)|
|Archdiocese||Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America|
|Priest(s)||Father John Romas|
The St. Nicholas National Shrine at the World Trade Center is a church currently under construction as part of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York, NY, United States. It is being developed by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, who hired architect Santiago Calatrava, who also designed the World Trade Center Transportation Hub.
Planned to open sometime in 2017, the church will overlook the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Its dome is inspired by the world-famous Byzantine Church of the Savior in Chora. It will contain a meditation/bereavement space and a Community room, housed in the upper levels above the Narthex, "to welcome visitors and faithful."
According to its official website, "the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center towers and the St. Nicholas Church affected our entire Nation and the whole world — Saint Nicholas would welcome all and be a House of Prayer for all people."
It will replace the original St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church located at 155 Cedar Street, which was destroyed on September 11, 2001 when the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. It was the only building not part of the World Trade Center complex to be completely destroyed by the attacks, although the Deutsche Bank Building and Fiterman Hall were later demolished due to severe damage.
The building that came to house the church was built around 1832. It was originally a private dwelling which was later turned into a tavern. In 1916, Greek American immigrants started the congregation of St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. Before moving to Cedar Street, its parishioners worshiped in the dining room of a hotel on Morris Street run by Stamatis Kalamarides.  In 1919, five families raised $25,000 to buy the tavern and converted it into a church, and started to hold worship services in 1922. The church building was only 22 feet (6.7 m) wide, 56 feet (17 m) long, and 35 feet (11 m) tall and was easily dwarfed by the 110 story Twin Towers, which were completed in 1972 and 1973. Despite its small size and unusual location (all the adjacent buildings had been demolished, making the church surrounded on three sides by a parking lot), before the attacks the church had a dedicated congregation of about 70 families led by Father John Romas. On Wednesdays, the building was opened to the public and many people, including office workers from the towers and non-Greek Orthodox, would enter the quiet worship space for contemplation and prayer.
Among the church's most valuable physical possessions were some of the relics (remains) of St Nicholas, St Catherine, and St Sava, which had been donated to the church by Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia. These relics were removed from their safe on holy days for veneration; they were never recovered after the attack.
September 11, 2001
The building was completely buried by the collapse of the south tower of the World Trade Center. No one was inside when the church was destroyed. Very little of its content was ever recovered. Among what was eventually found were the damaged icons of St. Dionysios of Zakynthos and the Life-giving Spring (Zoodochos Pigi) and a handful of miscellaneous religious items.
A report in a Greek-Orthodox newspaper said that before the south tower collapsed, part of the airplane's landing gear was seen resting atop the church. Also, body parts were spotted on and around the church before the collapse of the tower, presumably the remains of those who had jumped or fallen from the towers.
The congregation members and Father Romas have temporarily relocated to St. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, the plans for rebuilding the World Trade Center complex include building a new St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church quite close to the original location, on the elevated Liberty Park. The church will again house a worshipping congregation. A museum will also be built for the projected large influx of visitors that will come to the site.
2008 plans and deal breakdown
On July 23, 2008, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey reached a deal with the leaders of the church for the Port Authority to acquire the 1,200-square-foot (110 m2) lot that the church had occupied for $20 million. $10 million is coming from the Port Authority and $10 million is coming from JPMorgan Chase & Co.
The Port Authority and the church announced a deal in July 2008 under which the Port Authority would grant land and up to $20 million to help rebuild it in a new location – in addition, the authority was willing to pay up to $40 million to construct a bomb-proof platform underneath. In March 2009, the Port Authority stated that it had quit talking with the church and had canceled building St. Nicholas altogether. The Port Authority claimed that the church was asking for too much, and that they might delay the whole World Trade Center project. The Archdioceses, however, says that they just wanted the church back, and a third of the building would be a memorial for 9/11, a place where people of all faiths could pray and remember those who died in the attacks.
Second plan to rebuild church
In July 2010, George Demos, a former SEC attorney and Republican Congressional candidate, first brought the failure to rebuild St. Nicholas Church into the national debate. Demos claims Executive Director of the Port Authority, Chris Ward, has not made the rebuilding of St. Nicholas a top priority. On August 16, 2010, Demos launched a petition on his website calling on the Port Authority to rebuild the church, calling the Port Authority "disingenuous and disrespectful". On August 23, 2010, former New York Governor George Pataki joined George Demos at a press conference to call on the Port Authority to reopen talk with officials from the Church.
During the vespers service that was held on December 5, 2010, Archbishop Demetrios said the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese would do anything to rebuild the church. On February 14, 2011, The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America filed a lawsuit against the Port Authority for not rebuilding the church. On October 14, 2011, an agreement for the reconstruction of the church was signed that ended all legal action.
The church's original site at 155 Cedar Street was exchanged by the parish for the new site at 130 Liberty Street, which lies less than 50 yards to the east but is more than three times larger. The church will be constructed at the intersection of Liberty and Greenwich Streets in Liberty Park, on a platform above the helical underground ramp of the Vehicular Security Center, which will house the loading and parking areas of the new World Trade Center.
Architect Santiago Calatrava was awarded the task of designing the new St. Nicholas. His plans were influenced by the great Byzantine churches of Hagia Sophia and the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora, both in Istanbul. According to Calatrava, who has been consulting Archbishop Demetrios with regard to the liturgical and iconographical requirements of the interior, the church will be built of steel and concrete but the exterior will be clad in stone.
The ground blessing ceremony and symbolic laying of the cornerstone took place in October 2014, with construction expected to be completed within two years. On November 29, 2016, the church structure was ceremoniously topped out with a temporary cross, which will be replaced with a permanent cross after the church dome is completed.
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