St. Nicholas Cathedral (New York, New York)

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The St. Nicholas Cathedral of New York, also Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nicholas, is the representation church of the Church of Russia in the United States. It was the cathedral of the ruling bishop of the Russian missionary diocese of the Aleutians and North America after the see was moved to New York in 1905.


A community of Orthodox believers established the Church of St. Nicholas in the early 1890s in rented rooms in lower Manhattan in New York City. As the congregation grew to some 300 parishioners in 1899, a movement began to build a new, larger church. A location in an inexpensive part of uptown Manhattan at 15 East 97th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues was purchased. Donations by Tsar Nicholas II of 7,500 rubles were among the first donations made for the construction of the new church. On May 22, 1901, Bishop Tikhon of the Aleutians and North America laid the cornerstone of the temple.

The design, by John Bergesen, was of a church that followed that of typical Russian churches. The structure was of stone with a dark red brick facade trimmed with limestone and glazed tile in green, blue, and yellow surmounted by seven onion shaped domes. The curving ribs of the domes were of gilt bronze that contrasted with the green painted galvanized iron surface.

The new St. Nicholas Cathedral was completed in 1904 and became the following year, 1905, the seat of the Diocese of the Aleutians and North America after transfer of the church headquarters from San Francisco to New York. Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky, who was pastor of Church of St. Nicholas, continued his pastoral assignment at the cathedral until his return to Russia on February 26, 1914.

After the Bolsheviks assumed power in Russia, Soviet controlled elements of the Church of Russia challenged the missionary diocese that had declared itself temporarily independent in the early 1920s over ownerhip of St Nicholas Cathedral. By New York State Appellate Court action the ownership of the cathedral was awarded to the Bolshevik controlled church, the Living Church, in Russia. Over the following decades the cathedral functioned uneasily as the official church of an atheistic country.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, control of St Nicholas Cathedral passed to the freed Church of Russia under Patriarch Alexei II. Currently, St. Nicholas Cathedral is the seat of the Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in the USA, Justinian, Archbishop of Naro-Fominsk, Vicar to His Holiness, Kyrill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.


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