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Holy Trinity Cathedral is the first Greek Orthodox church in the Americas!

new orleans greek orthodox holy trinity cathedral

At the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the French and Spanish populations of New Orleans were predominantly Roman Catholic.  However, there were Orthodox Christians of different ethnicities living in New Orleans also.  Documentation attests to the presence of Greeks in New Orleans from the mid 1700s.  Early 19th century city directories list early Orthodox Christian immigrants who owned coffee shops, fish stores, liquor stores and fruit stands.  Other Orthodox settlers worked in the seafood industry in St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes.  Documentation attests to Greek seamen enlisting in the Confederacy during the Civil War.  Cotton and sugar merchants, real estate developers as well as insurance brokers were part of the Greek community in the 1800s. 

Greeks as well as other ethnic groups of the Eastern Orthodox faith--Russian, Syrian, Lebanese, Slavs, Austrians--probably solemnized their marriages, deaths and baptisms in the Roman Catholic St. Louis Cathedral.  This all changed with the Louisiana Purchase when inhabitants acquired the constitutional right to establish their own religions. 

Holy Trinity oral history informs us that in the early 1860s, Mr. Nicholas Benachi, a businessman and Consul of the Royal Government of Greece, spearheaded an effort to secure a site for the construction of an Orthodox Church, which was unsuccessful.  In 1864, Mr. Benachi offered his personal home at 2257 Bayou Road for worship services.  In 1865, a priest from Greece, Father Agapius Honcharenko, visited New York where he held services in the Episcopal Trinity Chapel.  He was invited by Benachi to come to New Orleans which he did in April 1865.  A news report states that he baptized approximately 30 individuals.  Father Honcharenko left us in June but his visit probably spurred the movement for the creation of a church. Later in 1865 the formal organization of Eastern Orthodox to raise funds for the purpose of building a church was created.    

The first Greek Orthodox Church of the Americas and a small cottage for the priest were built in 1866 as confirmed by news reports and the sale document of the property.  In 1867, Mr. Benachi sold 1222 N. Dorgenois Street in Treme to the Orthodox Community for $1,200. The individuals who provided leadership and assisted with generous donations were Nicholas Benachi of Chios, Constantine Kililis from Turkey, Michael Draskovich from Herzogovina, Nicholas Kavour of Syros and Demetrios and John Botassi whose origins were in Spetses.  Oral history from the descendants of the 18th century Greeks in New Orleans tell us that their ancestors also financially supported the little Greek Church.  Archimandrite Stefanos Andreadis, from Samos but serving in Syros, had been recommended by Kavour to the Holy Synod of Greece.  Archimandrite Andreadis was the first priest in this first Greek Orthodox Church, The Eastern Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity, his appointment made by the Church of Greece. 

Later additions to the complex included a parish house, a small library and a nearby mausoleum.  In 1901, a charter was granted by the State of Louisiana to the Eastern Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity, later rechartered in 1920 as the Hellenic Orthodox Church.

The original Holy Trinity church was torn down in 1950 and replaced with the brick church which now stands on 1222 N. Dorgenois purchased by the Episcopal Church in 1976.  Holy Trinity moved to 1200 Robert E. Lee Boulevard.  We have a membership of approximately 350 families.  We host the Greek Festival every Memorial Day weekend which is one of the most popular of New Orleans festivals.

BY-LAWS of the Greek Orthodox Community of New Orleans, Louisiana, Church of the Holy Trinity (PDF)