The Revival of a Washington Heights Greek Church

St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church has undergone a significant restoration. (Photo by Gregg McQueen via Manhattan Times)

After a two-year renovation project, St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church is about to reveal the restoration of “one of the most beautiful Greek Orthodox churches in New York,” Fr. Nicolas Kazarian, parish priest of St. Spyridon, told Manhattan Times‘ Gregg McQueen.

St. Spyridon’s Parish Council spearheaded an effort to restore the church’s interior meticulously, including the historic frescos, in its original Byzantine style. An iconographer was hired to resuscitate murals soiled by decades of dust and candle smoke, while walls and windows that had languished in disrepair were fixed.

Lydia Vagelos-Callimanis, President of the Parish Council, said the renovations were long overdue, as parishioners had been vexed by water leaks and crumbling plaster.

“You’d sit in the pews and it would be crumbling, the frescos over your head,” she said. “Since the 1980’s, there was really no maintenance whatsoever.”

While the building was constructed in 1952, the founding of the church dates back to two decades earlier. Back then, a large number of Greeks lived in Washington Heights. Today the number of families in the congregation is only a fraction of what it used to be, said Parish Council Treasurer John Psaltos.

Founded in 1931 at a time when Washington Heights had a substantial Greek population, St. Spyridon has been witness to the demographic changes within the neighborhood and a lessened demand for the experience of the Orthodox church.

There are currently about 150 active families in the parish, Psaltos said, where it once numbered more than 1,000 families.

In speaking about the church’s restoration, Psaltos said, “We felt an obligation to help resurrect St. Spyridon, because it was in such a bad shape physically, financially and spiritually.” Go to Manhattan Times for the “dark times” he is referring to and to find out how the church is adapting to changing demographics in the neighborhood.

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