The Cathedral of St. Markella was established by the ever-memorable Metropolitan Petros of Astoria in 1954, to serve the pious Orthodox Christians in the area who remained loyal to the Patristic Calendar. Since that time, it has become the Cathedral parish of the Holy Metropolis of the G.O.C. of America, whose current bishop is His Eminence, Metropolitan Demetrius.
Cathedral of Saint Markella
Before the reconstruction of the grand church of the Cathedral which emits an aura of the Greek islands, there stood a little house which was transformed into a little church and serviced the spiritual needs of the Genuine Orthodox Christians.
This small and humble house had for 30 years served as a house of worship to a pious portion of the Greek Orthodox community. It constituted a place of gathering and the head-quarters of the unstoppable struggles of a few Greeks who had come to America to find religious freedom in the face of fierce, often violent, persecution of their faith in Greece. The Church of Saint Markella has become the historical point of reference for every Orthodox Christian who follows the Old Calendar.
Archimandrite Petros Astyfides, from Chios who for many years led an ascetic life on Mount Athos at the skete of Saint Anna, was a clergymen who served the old calendarists at the historic church of Saint Nicholas (near the WTC). The Archimandrite (and later the Bishop of Astoria) Petros is the man who sealed with his life and his deed the Old Calendar Church not only in America but also in Greece. He is both the founder and institutor of the Old Calendar Church of America. He is the one who erected the church of St. Markella in the heart of New York which is the Cathedral of Church of the Holy Metropolis of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of America.
The Church was not dedicated to Saint Markella by accident, for it is the birthplace of the two blood brothers, Petros and Niphon. The latter had numerous times visited America in an attempt to spiritually support the new community as well as its spiritual work. With labor and toil, in 1951, he started his services for a small flock in a house-church on 26th street in the Astoria district. Within this little church, the
first organized community of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of America comes to life. This community came under the spiritual leadership of Archimandrite Petros Astyfides.
A few years later, a deacon was added, father Nikodemos Kalantis and a little later, father Emmanuel Kolombos. They both worked close with Archimandrite Petros. A little bit later, a sisterhood under the spiritual guidance and the abbacy of Gerontisa Synglitiki was added. BY the urging of the Archimandrite Niphon (spiritual blood brother of Niphon), this sisterhood came from Greece, and Saint Markella’s afternoon school was created.
With the time of passage of time, the small community was able to acquire several attached homes on the block which were used for the expansion and reconstruction of the new Greek Orthodox Church- a church which is characterized by its architectural uniqueness with the blue domes constituting the central point. Within those first dwellings, the Brotherhood of Saint Markella, the monastery as well as the first classrooms were offered hospitality.
Archimandrite Petros was consecrated Bishop of Astoria by the Russian Church Abroad in 1962 and was appointed the Exarch of America by the Holy Synod of the GOC of Greece. The small community of St. Markella through that small church was quickly transformed into the national reference point of the faithful of the old calendar. This Episcopacy was constantly growing on a Pan-American level: new parishes, new clergy body, schools, monasteries (two women’s and one men’s), Sunday school programs, a radio program, a televised program on Greek cable television, magazines, newspapers, a philoptochos brotherhood and many other spiritual activities. But above all, what really captivated every Orthodox Christian were the flaming and full of truth sermons by Bishop of Astoria, Petros. These activities always had the Parish of St. Markella as a reference point.
The new church was founded by the Bishop of Astoria, Petros, who saw the work of his sweat ultimately paying off. It is a life’s work which inspired love for Christ and the Church.
Faith held on to the parishioners, that invigorated them and strengthen them throughout their lives’ adversities and especially against social racism, which was tacitly imposed on those who chose to remain close to the traditions of Orthodoxy.
The iconography, carved veneration-stands, chandeliers, Episcopal throne, carved chairs, standing candelabras and interior finishing work and the rest of what constitutes a traditional byzantine-style Greek Orthodox church ended up costing millions. But to the average member of the Church, it is well worth it.
One priest in Chicago said, “The Cathedral is the mother church of our diocese. We hope that it will continue to be productive in the salvation of souls, so that – according to God’s will- her daughters (our parish churches) will prosper spiritually from her spiritual success.”
In July of 1995, a fire caused by a short-circuit destroyed part of the Altar and many parts of the Church.
After the firemen left, the clergy noticed that under the melted mass of steel and brass was intact the icon of St. Markella- an icon which was artistically created by the Bishop of Astoria himself, His Eminence Petros.
The Old Calendar believers struggled to raise the funds to repair the Cathedral and today the results speak for themselves.
Today the Cathedral of St. Markella continues to be a point of reference for every Christian Orthodox believer who follows the old calendar, not only for emotional, historical, or symbolic reasons, but also because its community activities inspire, set up the standards for and guide the other parishes, as well.
For more information about the Genuine Orthodox Church of America visit: http://www.hotca.org