Saint Nicholas Shrine, the church that was built on the site of the only church that was demolished in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, will be illuminated on Friday night like a beacon of light going into the heavens on the twentieth anniversary of the attacks.
On Sept. 10th, there will be a brief memorial service by Archbishop Elpidophoros and a lighting of the exterior of the buildings, from 7:45 to 8PM.
The details of exactly how the building is being constructed is shown in a new video from developer and St. Nicholas supporter Ilias Katsos, from the unique Pentelic stone sheets that are sandwiched between glass panes to its unique translucent dome.
Together, these materials will be so transparent that the entire building, from the ground up, will glow from the inside out, like a lantern shining the way in the night.
The construction of the building has been an extraordinarily difficult journey, having to weather charges of corruption and malfeasance, with the work grinding to a halt at one point. However, the financial problems were ironed out and construction recommenced under the firm hand of Elpidophoros, the Archbishop of the Americas, who was elected to his position in June of 2019.
Shrine a labor of love for twenty years
Since that time, the building’s gleaming white walls have been finished, and the interior artwork, including frescoes and icons written on Mount Athos, have been created. One of the most arresting of the artworks that will adorn the interior of the church portrays St. Nicholas, the patron saint of seafarers, in a boat outside New York City as the city was attacked on September 11th, 2001.
Bishop Joachim of Amissos, the Archdiocese’s leading expert in Byzantine iconography, working in tandem with the renowned iconographer Father Loukas of Mt. Athos’ Xenophontos Monastery, collaborated together to finalize details in what the Archbishop called the shrine’s “Illumination from within,” the artwork which brings the sacred space to life.
The “Pantokrator” icon will be a prominent addition to the interior of the dome of the small shrine. This will comprise the only part of the dome that is not transparent; the rest of the round structure other than the ribs will be completely translucent so that the light from within the church radiates up to the heavens.
The interior will not be completely finished or opened to the public until the second quarter of 2022.
In a statement just before the city and the country commemorate the terrorist attacks and the opening of the church, Archbishop Elpidophoros spoke about the upcoming anniversary, saying “It is a solemn day for our Nation and for the world, particularly in light of recent events in Afghanistan.
“This confluence of events – the Twentieth Anniversary of 9/11 and the withdrawal of America from her longest conflict, make the significance of the Saint Nicholas National Shrine all the more meaningful, as we will be present on the eve of September 11th to offer our memorial prayers for all who perished that day, and in the subsequent decades as a result of those terrible attacks.
The Archbishop of the Americas went on to say that on September 10th there will be an illumination of the rebuilt Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine for the very first time.
As the sun sets, he stated, “we will shine the light of Christ, the light of our Orthodox Christian Faith, the Light that never can be overcome by darkness. And thus, we shall commence the ministry of love, of healing, of reconciliation, and of peace at Ground Zero.
“Our Church and National Shrine will hold an awesome responsibility to provide the missing element of faith in the new reality of Ground Zero.
“The light that will shine forth that night and every night to come will bear witness to the love of God for all people, as it is so truly said, “it is far better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
“The darkness that enveloped New York City that fateful day was fueled by the spiritual darkness that comes from hatred and ignorance,” he stated, before adding that the mission of St. Nicholas is now “To proclaim that Christ is the Light of the world, and to share that light with all people. What a unique privilege to do so in this place, the epicenter of 21st Century history! And what an awesome responsibility!
“May the memory of all who perished on 9/11, and all whose lives ended as a result of that day, be eternal.”
Friends of Saint Nicholas Group recognizes supporters, builders of Shrine
The Friends of St. Nicholas, headed by Chairman Dennis Mehiel and Vice-Chairman Michael Psaros, noted in the announcement that “thousands of our fellow citizens and human beings were martyred at Ground Zero, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, PA.
“In their memory, and in honor of the heroes who climbed floor after floor in those Towers to save their fellow man – and whose climb was not complete until they arrived at the Door of Heaven, we are rebuilding – indeed, resurrecting, the Saint Nicholas Church at Ground Zero.
“In this moment, when we remember all those who perished that day, we want to thank everyone who has helped us rebuild. The construction crews and companies that have persevered through COVID have been truly extraordinary.
“But we also want to recognize all of you, the community of supporters who have generously supplied the needs for rebuilding Saint Nicholas. Every gift, every donation – great and small – has lent a helping hand to those construction crews who are sealing the glass, lifting the marble, cutting the stone, and making of this Shrine for the Nation, a House of Prayer for all people.”