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Saint Augustine, Florida
January 29-30, 2005
Celebrating the feast of our patron, Saint Photios the Great Patriarch of Constantinople. Inaugurating the 25th Anniversary of the Greek Orthodox National Shrine.
The National Ladies Philoptochos Society will be this year’s Special Honoree.
Also featuring Visual Artist, Mactruque and the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts Concert Chorale
|Entering the chapel, you see candles to the right and left. When an Orthodox Christian enters his or her local church, an offering is made and a candle is lit, bringing to remembrance the words of Jesus Christ, “I am the Light of the World.”|
Each year, pilgrims from across the land journey to this place of Greek- American beginnings, to the St. Photios National Shrine, in order to participate in the active witness of this important ministry of the Church. Like its patron Saint, the Shrine is called to be a steadfast beacon to the faithful, maintaining and perpetuating our Orthodox faith and Hellenic heritage, which we offer graciously to contemporary America.
WHAT IS ST. PHOTIOS SHRINE?
This sacred and historic site is the only Greek Orthodox National Shrine in the country. It is primarily a religious institution and is located in America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, Florida. The Shrine consists of an original building called the Avero House, a two-story structure built in 1749. It was here in this building that, with the demise of the New Smyrna Colony in 1777, the remaining colonists gathered and made this house (now the St. Photios National Shrine) their place for prayer and fellowship. These pioneers comprise the first permanent settlement of Greeks on the continent. Thus the Shrine serves as a means in which Greek-Americans can identify with their roots here in this country.
HISTORY OF THE SMYRNA COLONY
The saga of the colonists of New Smyrna, Florida, is the story of a little-known link in the chain binding 18th century old-world immigrants to new-world settlers. The first Greek pilgrims who came to the United States came here looking for a better life for themselves and their descendants. Upon their arrival they did not have much in terms of material wealth but they did offer this land the most precious gift in the world: the Orthodox Faith!
In the spring of 1768, seeking to escape poverty and cruel oppression, 1,402 pilgrims left their homes in Smyrna, Asia Minor; the Mani area of Greece; Crete, Greece; Italy, Corsica and Minorca. About 500 of these pilgrims were Greeks. They sailed for the New World under the leadership of Englishman, Dr. Andrew Turnbull, to seek a better life for themselves and their children. After a period of indentured service, they were promised freedom and a small piece of land in a place called Florida.
Several months later, when they landed in the port town of St. Augustine on June 26, 1768, over 200 of their fellow travelers had died on the torturous ocean journey. After taking on fresh supplies, they sailed 75 miles down the Florida coast to establish a new colony, which was named Smyrna. When colonists arrived at New Smyrna, they soon learned that provisions had not been made for the expanded group. They were unexpectedly faced with clearing the swampland filled with alligators, poisonous snakes and mosquitoes.
For 10 difficult years they struggled to survive against insurmountable odds. Finally, revolting, 291 fled on foot to St. Augustine, where they found justice and refuge. Although many hopes and dreams had been shattered, the survivors of the New Smyrna odyssey eagerly met the challenge of starting a new life in St. Augustine. There, in St. Augustine, the few remaining Greeks gathered in a residence for solace, fellowship and worship. The English had given the Avero House on St. George Street, in St. Augustine, to be used as a place of fellowship and worship for the colonists.
The St. Photios Shrine
In 1965, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America learned from some of the Greeks living in St. Augustine then, that the residence on St. George Street, built originally in 1749 by the Spanish Avero family, was available. The Avero House was purchased by the Archdiocese. An effort was then initiated to restore it and to establish it as a National Greek Orthodox Shrine. In 1969, Archbishop Iakovos announced that the Greek Orthodox National Shrine in America would bear the name of Saint Photios the Great.
Like its patron saint – Saint Photios – the Shrine is called to be a steadfast beacon to the faithful, maintaining and perpetuating our Orthodox Faith and Hellenic Heritage; to project Orthodox Christianity through its programs and activities to all who pass through its historic doors; and to initiate the mission endeavor of love, of freedom, a better life, and to communicate the Gospel of Christ.
On February 27, 1982, the dream of a National Shrine was fulfilled with the dedication and opening of the St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine by Archbishop Iakovos. It was dedicated to the memory of that first colony and to all Greek immigrants who came to these shores seeking a new world and a new life. The purpose of the Saint Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine is to honor the memory of that first colony of Greeks, and thus honor all pioneers who later followed to establish the Church communities that now comprise our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
The Shrine consists of exhibits depicting the story of the First Greek Colony in the New World. This unique exhibit contains various artifacts, photographs and historical documents. Also, a special audio/visual tape, “Our Plymouth Rock,” tells the story of Greek immigrants finding themselves in a hostile and unknown land, and of their struggle to become part of the fabric of America. The video creates a pictorial highway, which transports you from the shores of ancient Greece to America.
The magnificent St. Photios Chapel is filled with exquisite Byzantine style frescoes of scenes from the life of Christ, and many apostles and saints of the Christian church. Adding vibrant luster to these extraordinary examples of the centuries old Byzantine art is an abundant use of 22 Karat gold leaf on the highlights of the frescoes.
Greek Orthodox faithful are encouraged to make a pilgrimage to the National Shrine. Groups are welcome to experience the religious, cultural, and historical significance of St. Augustine. In the Chapel, candles can be lit for loved ones and ancestors who first came to this land, or the name of loved ones can be inscribed on the Wall of Tribute, located outside the Chapel. All are welcomed to attend the Annual National Shrine Pilgrimage celebrating the feast of Shrine patron, on the weekend closest to February 6th, and the Annual Greek Landing Day Celebration that is held on the weekend
The purpose of the Shrine is two-fold. First, it honors the memory of the first colony of Greeks in the New World and the succeeding generations of Greek immigrants (protopori). Secondly, it serves to preserve, enhance and promote the ethnic and cultural traditions of Greek heritage and the teachings of the Greek Orthodox Church in America.
The Shrine is a self-supported Archdiocesan Institution, thanks to the generosity of its Benefactors, Friends, Philoptochos and AHEPA Chapters. The Shrine is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pan, except for major holidays.