The St. Nicholas National Shrine at the World Trade Center is a church currently under construction as part of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York, NY, United States. It is being developed by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, who hired architect Santiago Calatrava, who also designed the World Trade Center Transportation Hub.
Planned to open sometime in 2017, the church will overlook the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Its dome is inspired by the world-famous Byzantine Church of the Savior in Chora. It will contain a meditation/bereavement space and a Community room, housed in the upper levels above the Narthex, “to welcome visitors and faithful.”
According to its official website, “the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center towers and the St. Nicholas Church affected our entire Nation and the whole world — Saint Nicholas would welcome all and be a House of Prayer for all people.”
It will replace the original St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church located at 155 Cedar Street, which was destroyed on September 11, 2001 when the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. It was the only building not part of the World Trade Center complex to be completely destroyed by the attacks, although the Deutsche Bank Building and Fiterman Hall were later demolished due to severe damage.
The building that came to house the church was built around 1832. It was originally a private dwelling which was later turned into a tavern. In 1916, Greek American immigrants started the congregation of St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. Before moving to Cedar Street, its parishioners worshiped in the dining room of a hotel on Morris Street run by Stamatis Kalamarides. In 1919, five families raised $25,000 to buy the tavern and converted it into a church, and started to hold worship services in 1922. The church building was only 22 feet (6.7 m) wide, 56 feet (17 m) long, and 35 feet (11 m) tall and was easily dwarfed by the 110 story Twin Towers, which were completed in 1972 and 1973. Despite its small size and unusual location (all the adjacent buildings had been demolished, making the church surrounded on three sides by a parking lot), before the attacks the church had a dedicated congregation of about 70 families led by Father John Romas. On Wednesdays, the building was opened to the public and many people, including office workers from the towers and non-Greek Orthodox, would enter the quiet worship space for contemplation and prayer.
Among the church’s most valuable physical possessions were some of the relics (remains) of St Nicholas, St Catherine, and St Sava, which had been donated to the church by Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia. These relics were removed from their safe on holy days for veneration; they were never recovered after the attack.