St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church Re-Opens as National Shrine

  • July 7, 2022
View of Greek Orthodox church in the early morning, against backdrop of lower Manhattan
View of St. Nicholas on the morning of September 11, 2001. Collection 9/11 Memorial & Museum, John Labriola Archive. Photo by John Labriola.

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, the only house of worship destroyed on September 11, was consecrated and officially reopened as a shrine on July 4.

The church had been founded in 1916 by Greek immigrants looking to build a place of worship for the local Greek Orthodox community. It stood for 85 years, overshadowed in the early 1970s by the World Trade Center’s South Tower and ultimately obliterated on 9/11 when the South Tower collapsed on top of it.

Greek Orthodox priest wearing all black vestments and holding a crosier.

Life-sized Polaroid of Demetrios by Joe McNally

Shortly after the attacks, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States of America, came from Boston to pray for rescue and recovery workers. Demetrios spoke to author and photographer Joe McNally, who featured the archbishop in his 2002 exhibition and book "Faces of Ground Zero: Portraits of the Heroes of September 11, 2001." (McNally's life-size photograph of Demetrios is now part of our permanent collection.)  

At the time, Demetrios told McNally, “In the terrorist attacks we have seen the abyss, the ugliness and darkness of evil. In what followed we have seen the immensity, beauty, and brilliance of good. St. Nicholas will be rebuilt...and will be much more than a small parish church."

His words rang true. Derailed for years, plans to rebuild the white-domed church were finally confirmed in 2011. By 2016, the new structure - designed by Spanish architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava - was underway, situated one block south of its original Cedar Street location. Demetrios attended a ceremony during which a 6'3" Justinian cross was temporarily installed at the new Liberty Park site. On Monday, almost six years later, the official consecration of St. Nicholas took place.

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine has fulfilled the aspiration Archbishop Demetrios voiced two decades ago when he reassured the community at large that the reborn building would be "a shrine, a monument of remembrance, a consecration of the sacredness of life, a place of reflection and peace for anyone of any faith or of no faith."

By Anna Ye, 9/11 Memorial External Affairs Intern

Previous Post

Memory of Museum Inspires Young Visitor

Lego structure

A letter from a family that recently visited us shares the unexpected response the Museum prompted in their autistic daughter. 

View Blog Post

Next Post

Samuel Kaplan: The Path from Ukraine to Requiem

Painted rendering of lower Manhattan skyline, with the Twin Towers depicted as ghostly chalk outlines, lit candles dotting the tops of buildings, and an image of the artist floating through air

Samuel Kaplan's Requiem captures the sad but hopeful spirit of post-9/11 New York. Today, the artist - who died last May - remains an icon of resilience, shaped by a life journey that took him from a childhood in Ukraine to the tragedy of the Holocaust and finally to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, on the morning of the attacks. 

View Blog Post