Saturday, May 10, 2008

Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church

Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church:
Preserving the beauty and grandeur of the Greek Orthodox tradition

In 1918, a group of Greek immigrants gathered and formed a religious community "in keeping with its political and philosophical convictions." With a $25,000 contribution from Demetrios Theophilatos, a wealthy ship owner, the Greek community in Washington purchased a church at 6th and C Streets SW. The parish searched for a priest to lead their congregation and Father Nicholas Menides took up the calling. Thus was born Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church. Like many other Greek Orthodox congregations in the U.S., this one was aware of and influenced by the political atmosphere in their homeland of Greece. This influence resulted in divisions within the congregations, which led the congregation of Constantine & Helen to align themselves with the Autocephalous Church of America and Canada. Over the years, the church grew and was politically and socially active in Washington, D.C.

In 1954, the church moved from southwest D.C. to a new church at 16th and Upshur Streets NW (4115 16th Street NW) and their church was consecrated in 1960. At one point, the church's sanctuary was heavily damaged by a mysterious fire. According to Constantine and Helen's website, the fire "reduced the Holy Week Cross to charcoal--but wonder of wonders, the figure of Christ remained untouched!" This Greek Orthodox church has a long and respected history in the city and has been the site of many historical events within the congregation and visits from many notable dignitaries, including Kings George and Paul of Greece, Prime Minister Konstantinos Tsaldaris, and First Lady Betty Ford. The church was also the site of the last divine liturgy delivered by Archbishop Athenagoras before his ascension to the Ecumenical Throne--the Greek Orthodox equivalent of papal ascension to the Holy See in the Roman Catholic Church.

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 4/08


The Artful Eye said...

Beautiful church. I wonder if this is an old style of Greek architecture because the more modern day orthodox churches look very different.

I liked your What is it post? Great fun.Stopped by too late to participate.

D.C. Confidential said...

Andrea: Good question. I don't know. I'm going to be down in that area later this week. I'll try to pop in a find out more.

As for the What Is It post, it's never too late to participate.