The original St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church cast a reverent and faithful shadow on the World Trade Center. Greeks purchased
the row house in 1892 as a community home, and it became the Saint Nicholas Church in 1916. For many Greeks immigrants, it
would have been their first stop after seeing the Statue of Liberty and disembarking from Ellis Island. The little church
was a spiritual jewel, open to all. Generations of New Yorkers stopped in to light a candle, say a prayer, or just sit quietly.
Everything changed on 9/11. Saint Nicholas was completely destroyed in the collapse of World Trade Center Tower Two during
the terrorist attacks. It was the only house of worship destroyed on that horrible day in 2001.
However, the rebuilding of the church took many years with many twists and turns both political and financial. December
of 2022 saw the dream of a new church turn into a reality. The rebuilt church was designed by Santiago Calatrava. Mr. Calatrava
is a world-renowned Spanish architect whose innovative sculptural forms have earned him unprecedented recognition and accolades
all around the globe. He developed his plan from a wealth of Byzantine precedents, including the famous Church in Chora and
the Hagia Sophia itself. His artistic inspiration for the design emerged from the mosaics of Hagia Sophia. His renderings
not only showed its appearance, but its relationship to its environment. Calatrava and his firm also designed and built the
WTC's Oculus transportation hub, which opened in 2016.
A monk, Father Loukas of Xenophontos, painted the stunning icons inside the newly reopened church. One portrays Saint
Nicholas as a seafarer, pulling a drowning man from raging waters. This image is a metaphor, showing how the church can be
a place of solace to contemplate the terrorist attacks.
But Father Loukas also addresses 9/11 more directly: In one scene, Jesus greets first responders and firefighters who
died. In another, boats on the river rescue people fleeing the burning towers. Also prominently displayed is an image of Mary
watching over a panoramic depiction of Manhattan; the newly built One World Trade Center is clearly recognizable, rising up
on the left.
"I personally want this church, through the iconography, to open up a new horizon for people, that they come away
with hope" Father Loukas told CBS News, Scott Pelley in 2020. "If this happens, the icons will have fulfilled their
His Eminence, Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, said "This Shrine will be a place for everyone who comes to the
Sacred Ground at the World Trade Center, a place for them to imagine and envision a world where mercy is inevitable, reconciliation
is desirable, and forgiveness is possible. The National Shrine will stand as witness not only to the vitality of Holy Orthodoxy,
but for America's commitment to religious freedom. The Shrine will be a defiant symbol of opposition to the forces or intolerance
around the globe."
"Rebuild My Church". These words of our Lord Jesus Christ have all along, through these years, been the inspiration
for the rebuilding of Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. It has been rebuilt as more than the original humble Greek Orthodox
Church of lower Manhattan. It is rebuilt as a National Shrine and place of pilgrimage for our Nation. And in accordance with
the word of the Lord, it will be a House of Prayer for all people (Mark 11:17).
To learn more about the church and to get a taste of its artistic splendor, visit the church's website https://church.stnicholaswtc.org/