Historic link between Nicholas II and St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York

PHOTO: St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral was built in the Moscow Baroque style in 1902

This month marks the 120th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone for St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral, located in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York City. The cathedral serves as the administrative center of the Russian Orthodox Church in North America, and houses the representation of the Moscow Patriarchate in the United States.

On 25th August 1899, a plot of land of about 700 m² was purchased on 97th Street, between Madison and 5th Avenue, on which it was planned to build a cathedral that could accommodate 900 worshipers, as well as premises for a Sunday school, festive meetings and an apartment for clergy.

The cathedral was constructed in the Moscow Baroque style by the architect Ivan Viktorovich Bergezen. In 1900, permission to raise funds for the construction of the church was issued by Emperor Nicholas II, who on his own behalf donated 7,500 gold rubles to the project.

PHOTO: the iconostasis of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral

The foundation stone of the church was laid by Bishop Tikhon, the head of the Russian Church in the Aleutian Islands and North America – the future Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Tikhon (1865-1925) on 22nd May 1901.

On 23rd November 1902, a consecration service, the first to be held in the completed church, was led by Bishop Tikhon. Bishop Charles Chapman Grafton, representing the Episcopal Church, participated in the service. The Russian Holy Synod elevated St. Nicholas Church to Cathedral status in December 1903, and the Diocesan Seat of North America was transferred from San Francisco to New York in 1905. Restoration work was carried out on the Cathedral between 1954 and 1960.

Today St. Nicholas Cathedral continues to serve the needs of the Russian Orthodox Church in this country as it has since its founding.

© Paul Gilbert. 4 May 2021

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