Friday, April 14, 2023

Great Friday

Tucked away on a narrow, curving road just off Bute Street in Cardiff is the Greek Orthodox Church of St Nicholas. Standing in the shadow of several surrounding buildings, some residents of the city may not even be aware of its existence. Save for four glittering mosaics around the church's entrance that hint at its majestic and cavernous interior, its external red-brick structure can be easily overlooked and underappreciated by passers-by. 

The history of the church, which was recorded as a Grade II listed building in 1991, begins almost 150 years ago. Cardiff became pre-eminent as a maritime city in the 19th century, exporting huge amounts of coal - millions of tonnes - and iron from its shores. Sailors from all over the world frequented Cardiff's port regularly, and over time the dockland areas, such as Butetown, bloomed into a bustling multicultural community as the immigrants left the sea and settled themselves in the city, establishing their own businesses and family homes. 

 This influx of settlers included Greek seafarers, and on December 18, 1873, the first official meeting of Greeks in the city took place. It was organised by Timothy Hatherly, an Englishman who had been ordained an Orthodox Priest at Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) and had come on a mission to the Greek seamen. This gathering proved pivotal, as it's where the story of the Butetown church we know today begins: the sailors decided to build a church near the port and dedicate it to Saint Nicholas.
Always good to pick up more info on Tiger Bay's historic diversity. It's the Greek Orthodox Good Friday today.

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