The Parish Council of the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church has voted to support the building of the Saint Nicholas Shrine at the World Trade Center. The National Shrine is being erected at ground zero, replacing Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church that was destroyed on September 11, 2011, when the World Trade Center’s South Towers fell.
The Church of Saint Nicholas that will be built at the heart of Ground Zero replacing the one destroyed on 9/11 will make the most stirring statement that any house of worship has made in the United States in a long time. It will tell America in brilliant visual images what we are, where we come from, and where we are going.
Selecting Santiago Calatrava to design the church was an inspired choice, for he is able to capture in his designs the past and the future in such imaginative ways as to astound both the eye and the mind. There is a small bridge in Athens that he designed over a roadway halfway between the city center and Aghia Paraskevi, that at first looks like futuristic spaceship ready to take off from its launching pad, but then seems to take the form of an ancient Greek trireme gliding over the Aegean.
A fusion of the past and the future is what characterizes the new Saint Nicholas Church. Calatrava has taken his inspiration from some of the great churches in Constantinople in creating his design. The shallow dome will have 40 ribs as does the dome of the Aghia Sofia, and alternating bands of stone at the corners will echo the walls of the Church of the Holy Savior Church in Chora. But the church will also be constructed in such a way as to create an ethereal effect reminiscent of the more mystical scenes of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” This will be achieved by fusing the exterior stone cladding with glass that in the evening hours will create a luminous aura and make the whole church appear to glow from within.
Most of all, Saint Nicholas Church will have something entirely its own—what Laurence Durrell called “spirit of place.” The original church, a neighborhood parish built in 1916, was completely buried by the collapse of the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11, the only place of worship destroyed in the terrorist attack. The new church will be built on a platform 25 feet above street level at the end of an open space that will include a non-denominational bereavement center for rest and meditation, a shrine that will attract pilgrims of all beliefs from all over America and the world.
The church and the park area it will crown will become a national destination that some 10 million people are expected to visit every year. That will make Saint Nicholas Church at Ground Zero one of the most popular sites in New York City, attracting twice as many visitors as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for example, and many times more than other churches in the area, including the most majestic cathedrals.
A terrible tragedy has brought us the opportunity to leave our mark on our new-found land and to do it in a way that is worthy of our faith, fitting to the memory of all those who perished on 9/11, and mindful of the promise of Jesus when he said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.”
Donations will be solicited from the beloved Community of Panagia. A generous sponsor of the 2015 Palm Sunday Luncheon has humbly asked that the proceeds of the luncheon also be applied toward this endeavor. The Parish Counsel will also make a donation from its philanthropy fund that was established to support charities both local and national.
Some donations have already been collected. For those wishing to support this historic cause, please contact Father Timothy Bakakos or the Church office.