St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church

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This article is about the Manhattan church. For the Florida church, see St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church (Tarpon Springs, Florida).
St. Nicholas
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
Location 155 Cedar Street,
New York, NY
Country United States
Denomination Greek Orthodox
Founded 1916
Founder(s) Greek immigrants
Status Destroyed
Completed 19th century
Demolished September 11, 2001
Length 56 ft (17 m)
Width 22 ft (6.7 m)
Height 35 ft (11 m)
Number of floors 4
Archdiocese America
Priest(s) Father John Romas

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was a Greek Orthodox Church that stood across Liberty Street from the World Trade Center in New York City, USA. It was destroyed in the September 11 attacks in 2001, when the South Tower collapsed.[1] It was the only building not part of the World Trade Center complex to be immediately destroyed by the attacks, although the Deutsche Bank Building and Fiterman Hall were demolished due to severe damage.

Early history[edit]

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.[2] In 1916, Greek American immigrants started the congregation of St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. In 1919, five families raised $25,000 to buy the tavern and converted it into a church,[3] and started to hold worship services in 1922.[4][5] 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[6] had been demolished, making the church be surrounded on three sides by a parking lot[7]), 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,[8] 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.[9]

September 11, 2001[edit]

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.[8][10][11]

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.


Layout of Liberty Park, with the plan to rebuild St. Nicholas Church at left and pedestrian bridge at right

The congregation members and Father Romas have temporarily relocated to St. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Brooklyn.[9] 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.[1] 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[edit]

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.[12][13]

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.[6] 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.[13] 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[edit]

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.[14] On August 16, 2010, Demos launched a petition on his website calling on the Port Authority to rebuild the church,[15] calling the Port Authority "disingenuous and disrespectful".[16] 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.[17]

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.

Architect Santiago Calatrava was awarded the task of designing the new St. Nicholas. His plans were influenced by the churches of Hagia Sophia and the Church of the Holy Savior, Istanbul.[18] The church will be constructed at the intersection of Liberty and Greenwich Streets, in Liberty Park, on a platform above a spiral ramp to the Vehicular Security Center, which leads to an underground parking lot. The site for the new church is east of the original site at 155 Cedar Street.[19] As of 2013, construction of the new church was scheduled to begin in early 2014.[20][needs update] It is hoped that the St. Nicholas congregation will be able to celebrate Easter in the church in 2017. The new church will be created from steel and concrete but the exterior will be clad in stone. The interior design of the church is still being determined.[21]


  1. ^ a b Greek Orthodox Parishes of New York State - a Photo Tour Vol. 1. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-4303-2861-2. 
  2. ^ Dunlap, David W. (May 14, 2004). "Solace on the Site of Disaster". The New York Times. 
  3. ^ Bagli, Charles V. (July 3, 2008). "Church’s Troubles Typify Ground Zero Delays". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Dunlap, David W. (2004). From Abyssinian to Zion: a guide to Manhattan's houses of worship. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-12542-0. 
  5. ^ A Schneider (October 1, 2001). "America Transformed – St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church". NPR. 
  6. ^ a b Bagli, Charles V. (July 24, 2008). "Agency in Tentative Accord With Ground Zero Church". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ "Our History". St. Nicholas Church. 
  8. ^ a b Thompson, M. Dion (September 30, 2001). "A search for holiness amid rubble ; Greek Orthodox priest seeks relics of saints, while hoping to rebuild; TERRORISM STRIKES AMERICA". The Baltimore Sun. 
  9. ^ a b "Feature: Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church". Religion & Ethics Newsweekly (PBS). September 9, 2005. 
  10. ^ Sanchez, Juan (2007). Terrorism & It's Effects. Global Media. p. 55. ISBN 978-81-89940-93-5. 
  11. ^ Ramroth, William G. (2007). Planning for disaster: how natural and man-made disasters shape the built environment. Kaplan Publishing. p. 180. ISBN 978-1-4195-9373-4. 
  12. ^ Associated Press (July 23, 2008). "Church surrenders ground zero lot". MSNBC. 
  13. ^ a b Bagli, Charles V. (March 18, 2009). "Church Destroyed at Ground Zero Is Still at Square One". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ "Decision Not to Rebuild Church Destroyed on 9/11 Surprises Greek Orthodox Leaders". Fox News. August 18, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Rebuild Ground Zero Church First". George Demos For Congress. 
  16. ^ Berger, Judson (August 17, 2010). "What About the Ground Zero Church? Archdiocese Says Officials Abandoned Project". Fox News. 
  17. ^ Vitello, Paul (August 24, 2010). "Amid Furor on Islamic Center, Pleas for Orthodox Church Nearby". The New York Times. 
  18. ^ Dunlop, David W. (October 13, 2013). "Church Near Trade Center to Echo Landmarks of East". New York Times. Retrieved August 29, 2014. 
  19. ^ Dunlap, David (October 14, 2011). "Way Is Cleared to Rebuild Greek Orthodox Church Lost on 9/11". The New York Times. Retrieved August 29, 2014. 
  20. ^ "Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and Saint Nicholas Church Establish National Shrine at Ground Zero". Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. November 13, 2013. Retrieved August 29, 2014. 
  21. ^ Sirigos, Dean (March 8, 2014). "Hagia Sophia Spirit Abound in Calatrava’s St. Nicholas Ground Zero Church Design". The National Herald. Retrieved May 29, 2014. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°42′37″N 74°00′50″W / 40.71028°N 74.01389°W / 40.71028; -74.01389