Orthodox Churches in South America

There have been Orthodox churches in South America since the late 19th century, primarily in major cities. Two of these churches appear in Catherine’s Pascha.

St. George's Orthodox Church in Brasilia, Brazil, is one of the Orthodox churches in South America

St. George’s Orthodox Church

Brasilia, Brazil

When Juscelino Kubitschek became president of Brazil in 1956, he wanted to build a new city from the ground up, to serve as the capital of the country. Lúcio Costa, a highly regarded architect and urban planner, was chosen to create the layout of the city, and Oscar Niemeyer to design the buildings.

Niemeyer was considered one of the greatest architects of his generation. His work was famous for the use of curves, the shapes of rivers and ocean waves. “Curves make up the entire Universe,” he said in his memoirs, “the curved Universe of Einstein.”

His work in the creation of Brasilia included a major cathedral. St. George’s Church came much later, in the 1990s. The building reflects Niemeyer’s love of curves: The church is a cylinder topped with a dome, about 100 feet across. From a distance, it looks like a great white egg.

Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, Buenos Aires, Argentina, is one of the Orthodox churches in South America

Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity

Buenos Aires, Argentina

The star-spangled blue onion domes of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity are an unexpected sight in the San Telmo neighborhood in Buenos Aires. The building was designed in the late 19th century by Alejandro Christophersen, an Argentine architect of Norwegian descent.

The Cathedral is considered one of his most important works. Orthodox Christians had begun arriving in South America in the middle of the 19th century. Sailors and merchants from Greece, Syria, Lebanon, and the Slavic countries settled in Argentina. And yet there was not a single Orthodox church in all of South America.

In 1887, a group of Orthodox Christians, both Russian and Greek, petitioned Tsar Alexander III of Russia to provide a church. At that point, work on the church began in earnest. Clergy were sent, and the first divine Liturgy in South America was held in 1889. Construction of the church began in 1898 and was completed in 1901.

The church was, from the very beginning, a multi-ethnic parish. The fall of the Russian empire, however, resulted in the church fragmenting along ethnic lines, in much the same way as it did in the United States. Because of the political situation in Europe, Orthodox Christians of Greek and of Syrian and Lebanese descent formed their own parishes with their own national priests. Nevertheless, all of the Orthodox churches in South America continue the close relationships that reflect their united origins.

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