Hill History: Historic church is region’s Greek Orthodox hub

February 8, 2013
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Tucked between two universities and a housing development, there stands a colossal Eastern-style structure with columns adorning the front and five domes affixed with crosses on top.

That structure located at 514 Parker St. is the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral of New England. The cathedral, which was built in the 1920s, is considered the “mother church” for Greek Orthodox New Englanders. Greek Orthodox is a form of Christianity.

“I am in awe,” Father Cleopas Strongylis said about leading the historic cathedral.

Strongylis, who is from Greece, also said he was “very moved” and “very honored” for the opportunity. Strongylis, along with parishioner Marica Arvanites, recently gave the Gazette a tour of the building and also two books dealing with the cathedral’s history.

One book is about the church’s centennial anniversary, celebrated in 2003. The other book, titled “Dean James A. Coucouzes as a Model of Priesthood: Archbishop Iakovos’ Ministry at the Annunciation Cathedral of New England (1942-1954),” is by Strongylis about Archbishop Iakovos, who used to oversee the Annunciation Cathedral.

The Annunciation Cathedral, which was previously located on Winchester Street in Bay Village, purchased the land between Parker and Ruggles Streets for $30,000 in 1916. The location was a central area for many Greek families.

Hachadoor Demoorjian was hired in 1922 to design the cathedral, which has five domes similar to such famous Eastern Byzantine churches as Hagia Sophia and Hosios Loukas. The J.R. Worcester Company built the cathedral between 1923 and 1924. The first services at the cathedral were held on Sept. 14, 1924.

The Annunciation Cathedral, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, continued to have work done to it after it was built. In 1926, iconography was added, including apse and wall paintings. And in 1935, decorative stained-glass windows were installed.

The cathedral, which sits across from Northeastern University and next to Wentworth Institute of Technology and the Alice Taylor housing development, is currently undergoing renovations on the first floor, but that has not affected the church services, as they take place on the second floor.

On the second floor, pews sit underneath a dome with iconography, including religious figures with halos, and a mesmerizing chandelier hangs down to light the area.

Strongylis said the Annunciation Cathedral has about 600 members. Those parishioners include former Gov. Michael Dukakis. The cathedral also has a program to draw in college students.

Strongylis said the college students are “amazed by the beauty of the building” when they visit.

The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral of New England at 514 Parker St. (Gazette Photo by Peter Shanley)