in New York
HISTORY OF THE CATHEDRAL
The first Orthodox parish in New York, on the eastern coast of North America, dates back to 1870. The church, arranged at a private home on Second Avenue, was attended by the Greeks, the Serbs and the Syrians, but mainly by employees of the Russian Consulate. The temple was even called "consular". In 1894, Bishop Nikolai of Alaska and Aleutian founded a new chapel in New York, consecrated in honor of St. Nicholas, the Wonderworker of Myra.
At the end of the XIX century, when the flow of immigrants from Russia significantly increased, and modest-sized chapel was no longer able to accommodate all who wanted to come and pray, its rector, the future saint martyr Archpriest Alexander Hotovitsky, raised the issue of building a large cathedral in New York. With the blessing of the newly appointed bishop of the Aleutian and Alaska Tikhon, later Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, in September 1899 a specially established committee bought a plot of 150 yards on East 97th Street, between Madison and Fifth Avenue, valued at 72,000 rubles. On this site a temple was supposed to be build, which could accommodate 900 people, a room for Sunday school, a room for festive gatherings and apartments of the clergy. Construction costs were estimated at 114,000 rubles, or $57 000.
Two months later the Holy Synod received the highest resolution of the Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich to collect necessary funds. To implement this Father Alexander Hotovitsky as chairman of building committee went to Russia in February 1900.
The first installment for construction - 5,000 gold rubles - was received from the Emperor Nicholas II.
Invaluable were the prayers and moral support made by deeply honored and loved St.Father John of Kronstadtskiy. Besides, he donated 200 rubles, and on the first page of special institutions for the record books he wrote, "God Bless this book and the work, to which these donations are requested...”
The example of the Royal Family and the bishops of the Church was followed by lots of Orthodox Christians. In Russia, often after Father Alexander Hotovitsky's calls that sounded from the pulpit of churches, parishioners donated their earrings, rings, necklaces, bracelets. And yet, the funds collected were not enough for the erection of the church. Then, in 1901, on the Feast of the Epiphany, the Holy Synod decreed collecting of donations in all churches in Russia for the construction of the Orthodox cathedral in New York.
The cornerstone of the cathedral was laid on May 9 (May 22, New Style), 1901 (the day of the Translation of Saint Nicholas' relics). Throughout the route of the procession from the church on Second Avenue to 97th Street all houses were decorated with American and Russian flags. In the presence of thousands of believers who came from Washington, representatives of the Russian embassy, headed by Count Cassini, the Consul General in New York Mr. Teplov, officers and sailors of the Battleship Retvizan, that was under construction in Philadelphia, as well as New York City Mayor Seth Low, Bishop Tikhon consecrated the cornerstone.
Eighteen months later, the best American construction firm at the time, John Downey and Son "under the supervision of architect Burgess erected a building of St. Nicholas Cathedral. The first service in a newly built church was held on November 10 (23 OS), 1902. According to witnesses, it was attended by more than two thousand believers (twice the designed capacity), and no less than a thousand worshipers stood in the street. In his sermon, referring to all those present, Bishop Tikhon said, "... the church worthy of the Russian nation has been built in this great city, which meets the grandeur of the Orthodox faith".
A telegram of greetings on the occasion of the consecration of the first Russian Orthodox Cathedral in New York was obtained from Livadia from Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich.
In 1905, Bishop Tikhon was elevated to the rank of Archbishop and moved his residence and the diocesan office from San Francisco to New York. St. Nicholas Cathedral now became the cathedral, taking upon himself the mission of the spiritual center of Russian Orthodoxy in North America.
For almost a hundred years of its existence in New York, St. Nicholas Cathedral - as a center of spiritual life and prayer - houses many sacred objects:
1. Reliquary, sent in 1901 to the cathedral as a blessing from the Holy Mount Athos - the attached list contains the names of saints whose relics are kept there.
2. St. Tikhon icon with a particle of his relics, presented to the cathedral by His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II on the day of the 90th anniversary of the cathedral.
3. Altarpiece Resurrection (stained glass) donated in memory of the cathedral toiler Varvara Nikolaevna Mak Gahan (nee Elagina) in 1907.
4. Altar cross from the battleship “Retvizan”. Sailors from "Varyag"and "Retvisan" were the first parishioners and the first donors of the cathedral. Both battleships were sunk at Port Arthur in 1904.
5. "Calvary". Work of A.A. Neratov. The gift of Russian immigrants. 1950.
To the year of 1973 we refer a special event that speaks for St. Nicholas Cathedral's cultural significance in the life of the city – it became a monument of architecture in New York City and the Architectural Society of the city pinned to its wall a bronze plaque with the text that underlines the uniqueness of the building.
In 2000, the state of the church was close to the crash and it was decided to carry out repair and restoration works that were completed in 2002 to celebrate the centenary of the cathedral.