Keepers of the Faith: Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral Historic Collection

Editor’s note: The following article was provided by Magdalene Spirros Maag of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in New Orleans. As most of our readers know, Holy Trinity, which was founded in the 1860s, was probably the first Orthodox parish in the contiguous United States. In its early years, the community was multiethnic, and it was loosely affiliated with the Church of Greece. The archival work being done at the Cathedral today is incredibly exciting, and I thought that our readers would appreciate an update. We’ll continue to follow this project in future articles.

Hurricane Katrina severely flooded the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in New Orleans with waters entering the Cathedral and the Hellenic Center Fellowship Hall leaving behind devastation that is all too familiar to Gulf residents.  Of particular concern was the collection of religious artifacts the Greek Orthodox community had safeguarded since 1865 when the church was first established on N. Dorgenois St.  Many items were lost and other relics were damaged in the flood waters.  The collection includes icons, Bibles, priests’ vestments, liturgical objects, photos and church documents.  In the fall of 2010 a major effort was launched to retrieve, assess and identify priority items for restoration and conservation.

Holy Trinity congregants have always safeguarded this collection throughout the century and a half since its beginning.  Because of the foresight of Karen Clark, cathedral member and textile conservator, and the combined efforts of Cathedral members, most of the collection had been archived and stored on the second-floor of the Fellowship Hall the year before Katrina struck.  But the dispersal of members and the rebuilding of the Cathedral and Hellenic Center structures, located in severely-hit Lakeview, took precedence for several years.

The reunification of the historic collection with its worshipping community was launched with a small display of key items during the 2010 Greek festival.  The campaign to restore the collection began.  Funds were raised to pay for the restoration of key items.  Some of these items are:

  • The Holy Kouvouklion cited in a New Orleans guide in 1885 with 12 priceless painted icons that depict our Lord’s Paschal death and resurrection
  • Blessed Mother of God Icon, gifted to Holy Trinity by the Russian imperial family in 1872, was exposed to excessive moisture from flood waters for several weeks.
  • The flooded Sacramental Journals had mold threatening the Greek handwritten data inscribed by priests beginning in 1880.
  • Holy Trinity’s first Greek Orthodox Bible crafted in Agia Lavra Monastery where the Greek war for independence from the Ottoman Empire launched was falling apart.

On March 10, 2012, the Archives Committee of Holy Trinity will hold its first public exhibition of key artifacts.  This event is a fundraising effort to pay for the continued restoration of priority items.  A joint effort of the Cathedral’s Archives Committee and their charitable arm, Ladies Philoptochos Society, fifty percent of the ticket sales will support several regional nonprofit organizations that serve our fellow residents who are in need of social services and basic needs.  Members of the Archives Committee accept memorial donations.  See contact information below.

Please see the attached flyer for information on date, cost, location and highlights of the Keepers of the Faith: The Beginning 1865 – 1915 Exhibition.  Please call Magdalene Spirros Maag @ 504-780-9165 and Connie Tiliakos @ 504-885-0206 for more information.  The information is also posted on the Holy Trinity website, www.holytrinitycathedral.org.

To download the flyer, CLICK HERE.

Leave a Reply