Calatrava's Reimagined St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church Opens at Ground Zero

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Calatrava's Reimagined St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church Opens at Ground Zero

Dylan Kleintop


Twenty-one years since it was destroyed during the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine is open once more.

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was founded in 1916 in a small row house that had once been used as a tavern.  Up until the September 11, 2001 attacks, the church stood in precisely the same location, 155 Cedar Street, witnessing decades of growth and transformation around the financial centers of Wall Street and Battery Park.  

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church Destroyed

After 85 years, everything changed with the September 11 terrorist attacks.  During the attacks, Saint Nicholas was completely destroyed in the collapse of the World Trade Center Tower 2. 


St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church prior to the attacks, New York, NY. Taken from Cedar Street.

In the immediate days that followed, a few scant objects were recovered from the site near 155 Cedar Street, but only a few precious relics were found.  

Weathering the Setbacks

During the rebuilding process, the church has seen a number of setbacks.  Beginning around 2008, a legal battle with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey over where the church could rebuild dragged on for years. 

Negotiations between the church and the port authority came to fruition under the leadership of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and a new opportunity began to take shape.  The result of the negotiations was the decision to position the new church at exactly the same place that was determined years prior, 130 Liberty Street. 


Image source: Modlar

Groundbreaking on the project would begin in 2014, but funding problems in 2017 caused work to come to a sudden halt.  The project would eventually start back up in 2020, but more delays meant that it would not be complete for the 20th-anniversary attacks on September 11, 2021. 

The New St. Nicholas Church

Although it is not on the same street, the new building is now in an elevated section of Liberty Park, overlooking the memorial plaza.  Designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, the Byzantine-influenced building contains "a fortune's worth of Pentelic marble" donated by the Greek government. 


Image source: Architectural Digest

The church is the second completed structure of the World Trade Center campus to be designed by Calatrava, the first being the hub community known as "the Oculus."

A monk, Father Loukas of Xenophontos, painted the stunning murals inside the newly reopened structure.  The murals portray Saint Nicholas, a seafarer, pulling a drowning man from the raging waters.  This image is supposed to represent a loose metaphor showing how the church can become a place of solace to contemplate the 9/11 attacks. 


Image source: Architectural Digest

Images of twenty prophets adorn the dome, made of thin stone and glass laminated panels that are illuminated from behind. A large open space on the west side of the building leads visitors to the entrance of the church through a low-hanging arch.  


Image source: Greek Reporter

The church's exterior is comprised of four solid stone-clad towers with a stone curtain-wall system that lights up at night.  The towers support a dome piece that features 40 windows and 40 "ribs".  

Now, almost 15 years since work began, the $100 million rebuild of St. Nicholas Church Greek Orthodox Church has been completed, inviting guests from around the world to the sacred ground at the World Trade Center. 

View a full photo collection of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.


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