Sad day as the beautiful and historic Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sava at 26th Street on the West side of Manhattan was destroyed by fire last night as reported by WNBC. More than 700 parishioners had celebrated Easter earlier in the day. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
Saint Sava was once the uptown chapel of Trinity Church. Trinity Chapel was designed in 1850 by celebrated architect Richard M. Upjohn in a Gothic Revival style and consecrated in 1855. It was built to serve the uptown Episcopal community. Edith Wharton (Jones) married Edward Wharton in 1885 in Trinity Chapel. She later wrote about the church in her famous novel of Victorian New York, The Age of Innocence.
Trinity Chapel was active in the Episcopal Church community until the area became commercial and parishioners began to relocate farther north. Trinity decided to sell the church and offered it to the Serbians because the Serbian people had no church on the east coast of the U.S.
The Serbian Orthodox Mission Center attracted Serbs from the U.S. and around the world. Following World War II, the Cathedral reached out to large waves of refugees and immigrants from Yugoslavia. “It was the only place where they could preserve their faith and national identity, simultaneously a place to learn English and enter into their new, alien society and culture. As then, as today the Cathedral relentlessly continues its holy, patriotic and human mission,” according to the church literature.
From the church literature, “During its long and colorful history the Cathedral of St. Sava has witnessed some very beautiful and also very difficult times. However, with God’s help, the work and prayers of St. Sava and the Serbian Orthodox Saints, we know and have seen that all problems can be overcome.” For much more detail, see the church website which is in Serbian Cyrillic and English.
I first heard of the church from a Wall Street Journal article, “Giving Helping Hands To Places of Worship,” May 2, 2012. The article documented the help that Sacred Sites provides in restoring churches throughout New York. I visited the church on a weekday. After circling the church several times, I located the office door and rang the doorbell. Father Vlad welcomed me into the church and gave me a tour of the beautiful cathedral, providing many historical details. Since then, my Saint Sava photos have become my most viewed photos on my flickr site, probably a testament to the popularity of the church in the Serbian community. I always wanted to return to the cathedral to capture more angles in the beautiful space.