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Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church & National Shrine

A Beacon of Hope in the Night

Santiago Calatrava

Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church & National Shrine
By Philip Jodidio -

Santiago Calatrava occupies a place of honor at the World Trade Center site in Manhattan. His Transportation Hub (2003-16) with its 51-m high steel “wings” is the most recognizable element of the complex. Consecrated on July 4, 2022, the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which is the second building he designed for the Memorial area, was officially opened on December 6 of the same year. 
The former Greek Orthodox church, located at 155 Cedar Street, near the South Tower of the former World Trade Center, was the only religious structure destroyed on September 11, 2001. In 2008, the Port Authority of New York purchased the lot on which the church had stood, and committed to providing a new site, three times larger and less than 50 m to the east, on the elevated platform of Liberty Park. Santiago Calatrava was selected as the architect and the church was initially scheduled to open in 2016, but a series of legal and financial problems related to the clients and builders delayed the project. 
Santiago Calatrava has had ties to Greece and was the designer of the Athens Olympic Sports Complex (OAKA, Athens, Greece, 2001-2004). Although St. Nicholas is Calatrava’s first religious building, he has worked on other liturgical projects such as his installation in the Church of St. Gennaro (Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy, 2020-2021). 
Calatrava carefully studied Byzantine architecture and art and found inspiration in a mosaic representing the Virgin Mary on “The Throne of Wisdom” in Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, which was originally built as a Greek Orthodox church. In a series of watercolors, he showed how that mosaic inspired the façade of St. Nicholas. Like the dome of Hagia Sophia, Calatrava’s design for St. Nicholas has 40 ribs marked by 40 windows. Thin stone and glass laminated panels are lit from behind and make the dome glow when seen from the exterior at night. The...

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