A New York City church that was destroyed during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, has reopened for worship 21 years later.
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine, which was destroyed when one of the World Trade Center towers collapsed, held its first service last Tuesday, appropriately on the Feast of St. Nicholas. The ceremony marks the return of the church's "full liturgical and parochial life."
"This is a very emotional day for us all and an extraordinary, consequential day for New York and America," Michael Psaros, chairman of The Friends of St. Nicholas, said in a statement.
"We have relit the sacred flame of faith and spirit in this place of remembrance and resilience. As a national institution, we look forward to welcoming millions of people of all faiths and all nationalities from around the world who will seek to find solace and comfort at Saint Nicholas, for he is truly the protector of all those who journey through life."
The funding for the project came through efforts led by the Friends of St. Nicholas.
All are welcome to visit the shrine built in memory of the 3,000 people who were killed in the 9/11 attacks, Psaros said, according to The Associated Press.
"To see it back up like this, to see it so close to the Statue of Liberty, which represents all the immigrants who helped make this church, is very moving to all of us," said Maria Yatrakis, whose family attended the old St. Nicholas, told AP.
After its destruction, Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava was selected to redesign a new church for the congregation, reports Architectural Digest, adding that it is heavily influenced by Byzantine architecture.
"To see the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine finally open is emblematic of Lower Manhattan's storied future and defining past," Calatrava was quoted as saying. "I hope to see this structure serve its purpose as a sanctuary for worship but also as a place for reflection on what the city endured and how it is moving forward."
The church's structure — four stone-clad towers supporting a great dome — is made from Pentelic marble, the same type of stone that makes up the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, the magazine said.
The long effort to rebuild the church faced many complications over the past several years, including a legal dispute over where the new building would be located.
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the World Trade Center, agreed to build the new church at Liberty Park just south of the main trade center site after the lawsuit.
The construction began with a ceremonial groundbreaking in 2014 but was stalled in 2017 due to the archdiocese's inability to make payments.
Work resumed in August 2020 after the Friends of St. Nicholas raised the $45 million needed to finish construction.
Although the goal was to reopen on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 last year, the final phase of construction took longer than expected, though the church building was ceremonially lighted for the date.