History of the Holy Trinity Cathedral
The picture to the left depicts the parishioners of Holy Trinity Church as they appeared around 1915. These pioneers provided the initiative and leadership to establish in New Orleans the first Greek Orthodox Church in America. The remarkable development of the small mission church is a source of great pride to the members of the Greek Community, who would like to share with you the history of their predecessors and pay homage to the early group and their accomplishments.
Many Greek Orthodox faithful immigrated to the United States as merchants, traders, and refugees during the nineteenth century. Those who settled in New Orleans found support and comfort in each other and in their faith. The need of a church in the city grew as the number of Greek immigrants reached an unprecedented scale after 1850.
Early attempts to establish an Orthodox church in New Orleans repeatedly failed from the lack of financial support. In 1860 Mr. Nicholas Benachi, a businessman and consul of the Royal Government of Greece, led a committee that was unsuccessful in securing a site for the construction of a church. Four years later Mr. Benachi offered his home, which still stands at 2257 Bayou Road, as a temporary location for a place of worship.
In 1865, a committee was formed to raise funds for the building of a church. The committee consisted of Benachi and Demetrios Botassi, cotton merchants from Greece, and Constantine Killili and Michael Draskovich, both owners of French Quarter coffee shops who came to New Orleans from Turkey.
The first Greek Orthodox liturgy in New Orleans was presented by Father Agapios Honcharenko, a Ukrainian priest sent by the Church of Greece in 1865, at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church at Camp and Gaiennie Streets. With generous donations from Mr. Benachi and from Messrs. Demetrios and John Botassis, Holy Trinity Church was erected at 1222 North Dorgenois Street. Later a parish house, a small library, and a cemetery were acquired.
Documentation attests to Archimandrite Stefan Andriadis serving as Holy Trinity’s priest in 1867. Unlike fledgling Greek Orthodox churches that struggled to create a presence in other American cities, Holy Trinity did not have disruptions in their existence and received priests to serve their Orthodox Christian adherents and worshipped in the small wooden “Little Church” continuously until 1950 when a larger structure replaced the original church.
The membership of Holy Trinity Church consisted of Greek, Serbian, Russian, and Syrian Orthodox faithful. In 1901 the Church was chartered by the State of Louisiana as the Eastern Orthodox Church of Holy Trinity. Seven years later the congregation amended the constitution to read that only Greek priests with basic knowledge in the Syrian and Russian languages would serve the parishioners. The Church was rechartered in 1920 by the State as the Hellenic Orthodox Church.
As the community prospered and grew, it became evident that the enlargement of the early church structure was necessary. The original building was demolished, and a new church was constructed in its place in 1950. Within ten years the Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress, the supreme legislative body for all parishes of the Archdiocese, authorized the consecration of Holy Trinity Church as a Cathedral.
The cathedral site remained on North Dorgenois Street until the property was sold in 1976. It was eventually relocated adjacent to Bayou Saint John on Robert E. Lee Boulevard. With the determination and perseverance of the congregation the Hellenic Cultural Center was constructed in 1980, and the new Cathedral was completed in 1985.
On February 4, 2001, our community celebrated another significant occurrence. The Cathedral was formally dedicated to the ministry of our Lord in a spiritually moving Consecration Service. To solemnize this auspicious and venerable occasion, Archbishop Demetrios of America, Bishop Alexios of Atlanta, and Bishop John of Amorion co-celebrated with Reverend Father Anthony Stratis, Dean of Holy Trinity, and numerous clergymen.
Sadly, in 2005 the Cathedral and Hellenic Cultural Center received significant damage from hurricane Katrina and the floodwaters which followed. With over three feet of water in the buildings, it would require a monumental effort to restore the grounds to pre-storm conditions. Click here to see photos of the grounds after the storm.
Almost immediately, Holy Trinity's parishoners and a mutitude of volunteers, both locally and from around the world, offered assistance, donations, and support to see the restoration realized. Because of their tireless efforts and encouragement our community celebrated the 2005 Christmas service back in the Cathedral! And on January 7, 2006, a little more than four months after the storm, Holy Trinity Cathedral hosted the historic visit of His All Holiness Bartholomew I, the first New Orleans visit by the Ecumenical Patriarch.
In 2014 Holy Trinity celebrated its 150th Anniversary as the first Greek Orthodox Church in the Americas!
The parishioners are proud of their Byzantine Cathedral. It is a magnificent tribute to the Orthodox faith and serves as a living testimony to the early immigrants who first founded Holy Trinity Church in New Orleans.If you are interested in learning more about our church please visit the Cathedral website and be sure to take one of the guided tours during the Festival!
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