This past Tuesday, December 6, world-renowned architect and engineer, Santiago Calatrava, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, and Greek Orthodox Church officials celebrated the monumental reopening of the newly built St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine.
The original St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was destroyed in the September 11 terrorist attacks, and after extensive negotiations with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America received permission to build a new church.
“To see the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine finally open is emblematic of Lower Manhattan’s storied future and defining past,” said Architect Santiago Calatrava. “I hope to see this structure serve its purpose as a sanctuary for worship but also as a place for reflection on what the city endured and how it is moving forward.”
The church is situated approximately twenty-five feet above street level, slightly raised above the canopy of the World Trade Center Memorial oak trees. It will serve as a spiritual beacon of hope and rebirth for the millions of visitors who pass through the reconstructed World Trade Center campus.
Made from Pentelic marble to parallel that which makes up the Parthenon in Athens, the church was heavily influenced by Byzantine architecture and landmarks.
The exterior of the church is comprised of four solid stone clad towers with a stone curtain-wall system that glows at night. The towers support a dome which features 40 windows and 40 ‘ribs’–the same number of ribs in Saint Nicholas. Images of twenty prophets adorn the dome, made of thin stone and glass laminated panels that are illuminated from behind.
A large open plaza on the west side leads visitors to the entrance of the church through a low arch. Two non-liturgical spaces housed in the portion of the building west of the dome are the Community rooms, which accentuate the church’s open and welcoming relationship with the greater World Trade Center Memorial site as well as the community of Lower Manhattan.
The St. Nicholas Church is the second completed structure at the WTC campus to be designed by Santiago Calatrava, the first being the World Trade Center Transportation Hub–commonly known as “the Oculus”–which opened to the public in 2016.
“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,” said His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America.