Site for Greek church near WTC gets blessing
Hundreds of members of New York’s Greek Orthodox community attended a blessing ceremony Saturday for a new church near ground zero in Lower Manhattan that will replace the one destroyed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In his remarks at the construction site, the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in America recalled his dismay when, on Sept. 12, 2001, he and other pastors visited the spot where St. Nicholas church had stood since the early 20th Century. The tiny structure had been crushed in the collapse of the twin towers, making it the only church destroyed in the attack.
The new domed building is scheduled to open in 2016, the same year as the church’s 100th anniversary. The church has raised $7 million of about $38 million needed.
Former New York Gov. George Pataki, who was governor during 9/11, said the return of St. Nicholas to Ground Zero will fill in a missing piece of the rebuilding process.
“We had remembrance, we had commerce, but without St. Nicholas, we did not have faith,” Pataki said. “Well now today, we have remembrance, we have commerce, we have that rock, we have faith, right here at St. Nicholas.”
Calatrava, who also designed the nearby World Trade Center Transportation Hub, said he took his inspiration from the Hagia Sophia and the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora, both in Istanbul. Fusing stone and glass, light will glow from the inside out rather than by exterior floodlights.
The church will fit about 150 people at a time in a 4,100-square-foot building on the corner of Liberty and Greenwich streets. While small, the rebuilt church will be able to accommodate twice the 80 or so worshippers that were standing room only in the old church.
Archbishop Demetrios, who heads the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, recalled the day when church leaders first saw the destroyed church, which was hit by falling rubble from the twin towers.
“We remember this very place filled with ruins, hiding under piles of debris, the pulverized remains of 3,000 innocent victims. Breathing a very heavy air, saturated with the dust of storm, wood, iron and with tiny particles of human bodies, we remember walking with heavy hearts to the specific place where our St. Nicholas stood as a building. . The church was not there,” he said. “We stood there frozen, paralyzed and cried.”
The church will include an interfaith and nonsectarian space for reflection and meditation.