This church fell on 9/11, but Greek grit built it back better

A small Greek Orthodox church decimated by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack will reopen next year as a national shrine, in grander size and form.

The south tower of the World Trade Center demolished the modest 35 ft tall St. Nicholas church when it fell on 9/11, but architect Santiago Calatrava is bringing it back with a unique design, according to the Associated Press.

St. Nicholas was the only other building besides the twin towers completely destroyed during the 9/11 terrorist attack. Now the church, being rebuilt as a national Orthodox shrine according to Calatrava’s design, will begin offering services in 2018 as The St. Nicholas National Shrine.

“What I’m trying to do as an architect is give a sense of hope,” Calatrava told AP.

The St. Nicholas Shrine, which stands where the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, is set to open for services in 2018. (Associated Press photo via News Edge)

The St. Nicholas National Shrine, which stands where the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church stood before 9/11, is set to open for services in 2018. (Associated Press photo via News Edge)

The church’s design is inspired by the Hagia Sophia and the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora, two Byzantine-era shrines in Istanbul. The structure will sport an outer layer of marble mined from the same quarry that supplied the marble for the Parthenon in Athens, with the permission of Greece’s government, and will be lit up from the inside to give the appearance of a glow at night.

The Greek government, various Greek Orthodox church members, and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston provided funding for the church’s $50 million construction, as did the Italian town of Bari, as St. Nicholas is their patron saint.

“You’ll see that the dome is glowing and the front is glowing, said Jerry Dimitriou, executive director of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. “The dome area will all be illuminated like a candle.

The dome of the St. Nicholas Shrine, which stands where the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church stood before 9/11, will glow from the inside. (Associated Press photo via News Edge)

The dome of the St. Nicholas National Shrine, which stands where the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church stood before 9/11, will glow from the inside. (Associated Press photo via News Edge)

“On one side you have water and memory, and on the other side, in the church, you have the idea of the light of the candle and the flame and the sense of hope,” Calatrava added.

The Greek Orthodox church established the original building as a church in 1919, and stubbornly refused to move during the construction of the twin towers.

“All of the buildings around it were sold,” said Olga Pavlakos, member of the parish board and descendant of some of the church’s founders. “We stood our ground. Greeks are tough people.”

The church building could not stand against the terroristic destruction of 9/11, but the church itself will continue on, intended as an icon of reflection and hope for all who wish to enter.

“It’s not only for Greek people, it’s a place for everybody,” Pavlakos said. “And that’s what we stood for before, so this is a continuation.”

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