Orthodox Churches in North America

Cultural diversity has been a major feature of the Orthodox churches in North America since the first Russian missionaries arrived in Alaska in 1794. This diversity is apparent in the five North American Orthodox Churches that appear in Catherine’s Pascha.

Holy Resurrection Church, Kodiak Island, Alaska, is one of the oldest Orthodox churches in North America

Holy Resurrection Church

Kodiak Island, Alaska

In Catherine’s Pascha, you see the current Holy Resurrection Church in Kodiak, Alaska, with a small wooden chapel in front of it. The small chapel is the first church on that site for that congregation.

I had seen pictures of the church, and when I read it was founded in 1796, I thought, “That’s an awfully modern looking building if it’s over two hundred years old.”

A little research revealed the truth: there have been at least three churches (some sources say four) for that congregation in roughly the same spot–that small wooden one, a second that was built in the 19th century and burned down in 1942, and the current one.

When the St. Herman’s Theological Seminary was founded, they constructed their log chapel (All Saints I believe it’s called) as an exact replica of the church St. Herman and his brothers built in the late 1700s.

Long story short, I did WAY too much research for the time I had, and fell in love with the story of how the Russian monks came to Alaska in the wake of the Russian traders and defended the people of Alaska, both the native born and the immigrants from Russia, and how the church grew from there.

Seeing as St. Herman is the patron saint of North America, I chose that church for the book to pair with Holy Trinity in Antarctica. But I wanted to pay homage to the original history of the church in that small, gorgeous, log cabin, so I placed it in front and below the current church towering above. So the wooden building in that illustration is both an homage to the original chapel for Holy Resurrection, and it’s the current chapel at St. Herman’s seminary. Kind of like an icon, in that things that took place at different times be within an icon to tell the story. I actually wanted to do that for Hagia Sophia, but no one knows what the original church looks like, and we only have pieces of the second. And Holy Sephulcre was difficult enough without trying to weave the earlier churches into it!


Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church

Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, USA

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church was one of the last buildings designed by famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The design work was begun in 1956, and construction of the church was completed in 1962, three years after Wright’s death.

Wright understood that he could not be as innovative in the design of an Orthodox church as he was in the design of the Guggenheim Museum, New York, which he worked on from 1946 thorugh 1959. He drew on Byzantine architectural traditions, most especially the design of Hagia Sophia, in developing the design of Annunciation.

In addition, his wife, an Orthodox Christian, had told him that the most important aspects of Orthodox church architecture are the cross and the dome. He took these as themes for his design, and interpreted them in a way that was uniquely modern and American.

The church is on the National Register of Historic Places. More information about the church is available on their parish website.

Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, New Orleans, LA, is one of the oldest Orthodox churches in North America

Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral

New Orleans, Louisiana

Orthodox Christians had been immigrating to America from Greece, Russia, Serbia, and Syria since the eighteenth century. As the number of Orthodox Christians increased, the need for churches became more intense.

In 1860, the Greek consul in New Orleans, Nicholas Benachi, began efforts to organize a church. The Orthodox faithful in the area came together as a worshiping community in 1864, and their first building, Holy Trinity Church, was built in 1866. It was the first Greek Orthodox Church in the New World.

By 1950, the church was far too small for the parish. The building was demolished and replaced with a larger building. In 1960, 100 years after Benachi’s first efforts towards founding an Orthodox Church in New Orleans, Holy Trinity was consecrated as a cathedral. In 1976, the original church property was sold. The new cathedral on Bayou St. John was completed in 1985 and consecrated in 2001.

Holy Trinity appears to be the only Orthodox cathedral where you can arrive for liturgy by kayak or canoe. Read more about Holy Trinity Cathedral and their annual Greek Festival on their website.

Church at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Lake Amatitlán, Guatemala, is one of the Orthodox churches in North America

Church at the Monastery of the Holy Trinity

Lake Amatitlán, Guatemala

The Monastery of the Holy Trinity is a monastery for women under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Antioch. The monastery, which supports an orphanage and the only Orthodox church in Guatemala, was founded in April 1986 by Mother Inés and Sister María Amistoso.

Mother Inés was a member of a Roman Catholic monastic order until 1986, when she converted to Orthodoxy and became an Orthodox nun. In 1989, her monastery was given land high on a hill. The land is a little more than 12 miles from Guatemala city, near Lake Amatitlán and near Pacaya, an active volcano.

Although the monastery is under the patrarichate of Antioch, their church is built in the Russian style. Mother Inés says that, when people see the onion domes, they know that they are looking at an Orthodox church. The parish also follows the Russian rubrics in their services, and keeps the Old Calendar.

The bird flying near the monastery church in the illustration in Catherine’s Pascha is a quetzal. The quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala.


St. Demetrios Orthodox Church, Winnipeg, Canada, is one of the Orthodox churches in North America

St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

The first Orthodox Christian in Winnipeg, Tom Julius, arrived in Winnipeg from Laconia, Greece, in 1898. Over the next few years, more Greeks arrived. The first official Greek Association was established in Winnipeg in 1912, and was restyled the Greek Community of Winnipeg in 1917. This group served as a hub for the tiny Greek community in Winnipeg.

In 1923, the first Greek Orthodox priest arrived in Winnipeg. Sacraments could now be served. In 1926, the Greek women in the community established a philanthropic association. By 1934, the Greek Community had 44 members.

In 1957, a church was built and dedicated to St. Demetrios. The church soon outgrew that location, and in 1973, the new church was dedicated.



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