By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Greek Orthodox Cathedral In Brooklyn Heights Celebrates Its Centennial
Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral celebrated its centennial on Monday and Tuesday of this week, with the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos (Jerome) and His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America making an official visit. The feast day of the Cathedral’s namesake saints occurred on May 21.
The celebrations began with a Hierarchical Great Vespers on Monday evening, May 20. The Byzantine Choir of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America chanted the Vespers.
His Beatitude Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos and His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America co-celebrated the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on May 21, with the Orthros (morning prayers) starting first. The Byzantine Choir of the Archdiocese also chanted the Divine Liturgy.
The feast day of St. Constantine, who became head of the Holy Roman Empire, and his mother, St. Helen, are celebrated together, on May 21. It was St. Constantine who also convened the famous Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E. (A.D.)
According to the Cathedral’s website, a small group of Greeks organized the first Greek Orthodox community in Brooklyn during the spring of 1913. Services were first held in a small church at Johnson and Lawrence streets in what is now MetroTech. [George Westinghouse High School and buildings of NYU-Polytechnic University are now at that intersection.]
However, the growing community soon needed a much larger space. Combining their resources, the fledgling Greek Orthodox community collected donations from all around the United States. The donation amounts ranged from pennies to $100. They were able to acquire the property where the present church now sits, on Schermerhorn St. just east of Court St. The cornerstone for this new church was laid on April 16, 1916.
About six years later, in 1922, the growing community of Saints. Constantine & Helen Church purchased a building on State Street, which became an afternoon school for the youth and a Community Center. Within the close of the 1920s, the afternoon Greek program attracted children from a wider area, including Manhattan, Flatbush, Bay Ridge and surrounding neighborhoods. As Brooklyn’s Greek population grew, the need arose for a full educational program, with instruction in the Greek language and heritage, as well as the Orthodox faith. Following a successful capital campaign, the doors of the brand new A. Fantis School opened in the fall of 1963. Named after its primary benefactor, Argyrios Fantis, the school was immediately filled with Greek-American children in an environment that nurtured learning, growing and strengthening Greek identity.
The church building on Schermerhorn St. was expanded in 1946 and again renovated and rededicated in 1960. It is considered a true Byzantine Church with icons written by the famous iconographer Constantinos Yioussis. 1966 was also a landmark year, when Sts. Constantine and Helen became a cathedral, and the A. Fantis School’s first eighth-grade class graduated.
St. Constantine & Helen Cathedral receives visiting dignitaries from Greece, Cyprus and the United States.
The Cathedral will hosts its annual Greek Festival on Schermerhorn Street from June 3-9.